There is nothing like the Christmas spirit.
Christmas has always traditionally been known as a time of peace, love and goodwill to all. It is a time when people are more helpful and more giving, and it seems that the whole world is transformed.
It is also a time when parents sneak a peek at their kids’ letters to Santa to get a hint as to what they want for Christmas. For many, sometimes the most-wanted Christmas gift can’t be wrapped.
This Christmas, Sean and Regis Richards is asking God to bless their little one-year old baby boy Ethan Richards with the greatest gift of all; the gift of a new heart.
“It’s a boy!” Those are the exciting words that Sean and Regis Richards heard from the doctors when their son, Ethan Richards, entered into the world.
That elation turned into major concern when a trip to the doctor turned out to be so much more.
Baby Ethan was born a healthy 7 lb. 6 oz. baby, who was 19 ¾ in. long when he entered the world on September 6. 2011, at the Women’s Hospital of Texas.
“I was so excited to have my first child and when they presented him to me I started crying,” said Regis. “I was so excited to have a healthy baby boy and was almost scared to even take him home.”
Sean Richards was thrilled that he had a son.
At 10 months, Regis noticed that baby Ethan was not eating as much and that he was losing weight.
“I knew something was wrong with my son,” said Regis. “His lips were getting black and also around his eyes were getting black.”
The Richards’ (no relation to our Publisher Karen Carter-Richards) took baby Ethan to the doctor and after three trips to the doctor within a two-week timeframe, baby Ethan was treated for what the doctors thought was allergies, asthma or a cold. After receiving several breathing treatments, baby Ethan did not respond well to them and it was then that his parents knew something was seriously wrong and had to be done.
On September 11, 2012, the Richards’ family had their lives turned upside-down after taking baby Ethan to the Texas Children’s HospitalEmergency room. After being looked at by doctors, the Richards’ family received the news that little baby Ethan’s heart was failing and that he needed to be admitted to the Pediatric Cardiovascular ICU.
He was immediately intubated on a ventilator.
Baby Ethan, who had just turned one years old the week before he was admitted to the ICU, had been diagnosedwith a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The condition caused baby Ethan’s heart to enlarge three times the size of a normal one year olds heart.
As baby Ethan’s heart enlarged, its efficiency to pump blood through his body decreased. Due to his condition, baby Ethan’s heart was pumping like he was running on a treadmill 24 hours a day. Because his heart was damaged beyond repair, on October 1, baby Ethan underwent surgery to implant the Berlin heart. This will help Ethan fight until he can receive a new heart.
Baby Ethan had several strokes which limited his movement, but over time he regained some mobility. Before Ethan was placed on the heart transplant list, he had togo through a very rigorous screening process. Aselect team of heart doctors, nurses, social workers, and bioethicists reviewed the medical history and diagnostic test results of baby Ethan to see if he would be able to survive the heart transplant procedure and then, comply with the continuous care needed to live a long healthy life.
Baby Ethan has gone from initially not being added to the heart transplant list to eventually being added to the list and over the Thanksgiving holidays, the Richards’ were thankful to receive news that baby Ethan is now #1 on the heart transplant list.
“We are very thankful today for Ethan’s great progress and the blessings of his #1 spot on the list,” said Sean. “We have a long way to go though.”
The Richards’ know that the process is not an easy one.
Once a person is approved to be placed on the heart transplant list, they must wait for a donor to become available. This process can typically be long and stressful, which is why a supportive network of family and friends is needed to help the patient through this time.The hospital must know where to contact the patient at all times should a heart become available. It is extremely important to make sure the heart is the right fit for the recipient.
Donors for heart transplants are individuals who may have recently died or become brain dead, which means that although their body is being kept alive by machines, the brain has no sign of life. Many times, these donors died as a result of a car accident, severe head injury, or a gunshot wound, which can be relatively challenging for infants because not too many die under these circumstances. Donors give their permission for organ donation before their death; the donor’s family must also give consent for organ donation at the time of the donor’s death.
Once a heart has been identified, aheart transplant surgeon will make sure the donor heart is in good condition before beginning the surgery. When the donor heart arrives in the operating room, the surgeon will remove the recipients’ heart and the donor heart will be placed in proper position and attached to the major blood vessels. The actual heart transplant procedure can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, or longer.
Donor organs are located through the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) computerized national waiting list. This waiting list assures equal access and fair distribution of organs when they become available. When a heart becomes available for transplantation, it is given to the best possible match, based on blood type, body size, UNOS status (based on the recipient’s medical condition), and the length of time the recipient has been waiting. The race and gender of the donorhave no bearing on the match. All donors are screened for Hepatitis B and C and for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
NEED YOUR SUPPORT
More than 2,000 heart transplants are performed each year in the U.S. Each year thousands more would benefit from a heart transplant if more donated hearts were available.
The Richards’ family truly needs your prayers and financial support.
Unfortunately, heart transplant surgeries come at a steep cost and aren’t cheap. The average cost of a heart transplant, including preliminary testing, the surgery itself, post-operative recovery costs, and anti-rejection medication adds up to over $1 million.
The Richards’ life has been turned upside-down with this turn of events. Regis Richards made the decision to quit her full-time job and stay at the bedside of her baby boy Ethan on fulltime basis every day. Sean Richards continues on his full-time job and makes his way to the hospital every day to be with his son and assist his wife, Regis.
The Richards’ have set up an online campaign to solicit financial support. Supporters can go to www.youcaring.com and enter Team Ethan to donate. All donations go directly to help the family pay for the medical costs to save baby Ethan’s life. They have also done other fundraisers and plan to do more to raise money.
“Thank you to everyone for continued support and prayers,” said Regis. “As a first-time mother, I am overwhelmed and thankful for each and every one of you that support our effort and support my little angel, baby Ethan.”
They recently had a dinner at Willie G’s in Pasadena, where the restaurant gave them 15% of their earnings and J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans just signed an autographed football for baby Ethan. They have created T-shirts that say, “Team Ethan – One Heart – One Life” that they have been selling, along with some wrist bands. They are doing whatever they have to do to save their son, but having to work and care for baby Ethan has been challenging.
“This is my firstborn son,” said Sean. “I will do everything in my power to save him and we are so grateful for the prayers and the donations from everyone. God is awesome!”
The Houston Forward Times has been involved and has helped the Richards’ start an account at Wells Fargo Bank in the name of baby Ethan. It is the “Team Ethan Heart Donation Account” and the account number is #3881481901. The Houston Forward Times and the Julius and Lenora Carter Scholarship and Youth Foundation has made the first donation to this effort and encourages the community to join us.
We will keep you updated on upcoming events and fundraisers to get the community involved, but in the meantime, we encourage you to give whatever you can to baby Ethan and his wonderful parents.