Stories of Hope

Christopher, heart recipient

Donor heart recipient Christopher Echo

Christopher was a healthy, happy baby until he began experiencing respiratory issues at 15 months old. Initially, it appeared that Christopher had asthma or bronchitis; however, several doctor visits resulted in a much more serious diagnosis: Christopher had restrictive cardiomyopathy. His heart was enlarged and unable to function properly. Without a heart transplant, Christopher would have only 12 months to live.

As Christopher’s parents attempted to process this heartbreaking news, they found that the decision to seek a new heart for Christopher was not an easy one for them to make. They struggled with the knowledge that for Christopher to get a new heart, someone else’s child would have to die and be a donor. They ultimately made the decision to put him on the national transplant waiting list in January 2008.

After that, there was nothing left to do but wait while Christopher’s condition rapidly worsened. He was admitted to the hospital on three different occasions; and by April 2008, Christopher had become so ill that doctors did not think that he would make it. Amazingly, he hung on, but his family was filled with endless worry.

“It felt like it was us against a time bomb,” says Christopher’s mother, Alma. “We felt completely powerless and tried desperately not to lose hope.”

Nearly five months after Christopher had been listed for a transplant, Alma was giving him a bath in the kitchen sink when they got the call that a matching heart had been donated. On May 27, 2008, Christopher got his new heart.

The improvement to his health was apparent almost overnight. Prior to the surgery, Christopher was behind developmentally. Not only was he not yet walking or crawling, he could not even sit up on his own and spent his days propped up in a car seat. Just two weeks post-transplant, Christopher was ready to take his first steps. But he did not walk, he ran — straight to the swings at the playground.

Today, you would never know that Christopher had ever been sick. He has an endless supply of energy and is living a full and healthy life. He is always trying new things and loves dancing, playing soccer and taking taekwondo with his two older brothers. Christopher speaks freely about his heart transplant to anyone who will listen, and he actively volunteers within his community to promote registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor.

“Because of his donor’s gift,” says Alma, “I have years of hugs and kisses from Christopher that I would not have had otherwise. For that, I will be forever grateful.”