ANNA — It was just about Christmas time last year that Christa and Scott Weiskittel, of Anna, learned that their 15-year-old son, Hayden, had been placed on the donor list for a heart.
Christmas this year will be different from that one. Hayden got a heart in April.
“It was a Christmas of uncertainty,” Christa said of 2016. “This year, it’s a Christmas of gratitude. It’s been a year of blessings. A tough year, but a good year.”
Hayden has spent much of it in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and its nearby Ronald McDonald House. He was admitted in February, while waiting for a donor heart. After the transplant was done in April, he remained hospitalized until July.
Then, in September, he was diagnosed with post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD), lymphoma that can develop in people who have had a transplant, according to the website, www.lymphomas.org. From 1 to 6 percent of heart transplant patients contract the disease.
In order to lessen the chances of a body’s rejecting a transplanted organ, doctors suppress the patient’s immune system. That allows for a rapid increase of lymphoid cells, the website says.
Hayden went back to the Cincinnati Ronald McDonald House and began chemotherapy treatments. On Nov. 30, he was released to go home, but the treatments will continue through Dec. 28.
So far, his body has not shown signs of rejecting the heart.
“The next heart cath will be Jan. 22 to get a reading,” Christa said. “It’s trickier with PTLD. The chemo replaced some of the rejection meds, but the last biopsy had no rejection.” At that time, doctors will do a PET scan, a type of nuclear medical imaging.
When Hayden got home in July, he had hoped to be able to go back to school at Anna High School, but that hasn’t yet been possible. Now the hope is that he’ll join his classmates in mid-January.
In the meantime, it’s Christmas and the Weiskittels will spend it together.
“We’re very blessed to be in the situation we are,” Christa said. “We have Hayden. We’ve met families along the way who’ve had a very different outcome from ours. We’re thankful for Hayden. Everything looks positive right now. We’re hoping for the best.”
They’re also remembering that Hayden’s good fortune to get a transplant has meant profound sorrow for another family.
“The donor family is very heavy on our hearts this year,” Christa said, unable to hold back the tears. “We don’t know who they are. They’re certainly on our hearts and minds — the loss they’ve endured. We’re grieving for them.”
The Weiskittels have shared their story throughout the year, not only with the Sidney Daily News but also on Facebook to bring the need for organ donation to the attention of the community.
“People don’t realize the importance of organ donation. They should thoughtfully consider making a donation,” Christa said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.