BOSTON, Mass. - Someday, they would love to have the chance to say, "thank you."
That's what Walter "Smitty" Marvin said a couple of days after his son, Brock, received a long-awaited new heart in the early morning hours of Saturday, Dec. 11.
"We would love to meet them and just have the chance to thank them," said Marvin about the family who lost the loved one whose heart now beats for Brock. "You just hate to think about what they are going through, but you hope that they would look at Brock and see that their decision or the decision of their loved one is the reason why he is living today."
Marvin said the only way that the family would get that opportunity is if the donor family wanted to find out where the organ went.
"We've discussed that, but there is a very stiff protocol and the hospital can't tell you anything," said Marvin. "If the donor family opts that they want to find out, then there is a whole set of practices that they have to go through and it is all run through the hospital."
Marvin said it had been an exciting week for families of patients at the Children's Hospital in Boston, Mass., as two other children waiting on the transplant list also received the news they had been waiting for.
"The night before, a 21-month old from Malone received a transplant, and a teenage girl got one a few days earlier," Marvin said. "The tempo has really been up here because there had been a dry spell for heart transplants and now they have had three in 10 days."
Brock's surgery was performed by Dr. Betsy Blume, and Marvin said that the procedure went smoothly.
"It all happened so quickly once we found out the heart was on its way," said Marvin. "They brought him in around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday to prep and they made the incision into his chest at about 4:50 a.m. They had him on an external pump at about 5:30 a.m., the heart was in the hospital at about 5:45 a.m. and once they had it in, it started beating on its own. Everything really went flawlessly - it was a really perfect case scenario."
Marvin said that he was in the Intensive Care Unit when his son first woke up after the surgery, and was surprised by the first thing he heard.
"Brock said, 'Do they have the heart put in yet,'" said Marvin. "I told him that it was and that the surgery was over."
Marvin said Brock was also trying to get used to a new reality, one without a defibrillator attached to his heart.
"We were moving him in the bed and he started shaking," said Marvin. "I asked him what was wrong and he said that he did not want the defibrillator to go off again. I looked over at the monitors and told him that his heart rate was at 80 and he didn't even have a defibrillator in him any more. Even though his heart is in, his brain hasn't figured it all out yet."
Marvin said as of Tuesday, Dec. 14, Brock was expected to remain in ICU for two more days and eventually would be able to leave the hospital.
"We will get an apartment here for about six weeks so they can continue to monitor him and make sure that the heart is not being rejected," said Marvin. "At around eight weeks, if all goes well, he should get the green light to come home and would only have to go down once a week for testing."
Marvin said while they had been waiting for the transplant, they got a chance to meet almost everyone in their wing at the Boston Children's Hospital.
"You get to know all of the other families and you all get close," said Marvin. "Someone gets a heart, and everyone is so happy for that person. You know that they have received that gift and that you are that much closer to yours."
Marvin said the joy that he felt when he saw others receive their needed heart was something that helped him after his son's surgery.
"You walk by the rooms with people still waiting and you almost feel guilty that your son got one," said Marvin. "But then you remember how you felt when you saw someone else receive a transplant and you know they feel the same way."
Marvin added the joy that he and others felt was only possible because someone made the choice to be an organ donor.
"I really want to stress to people how important it is to be an organ donor," said Marvin. "It means so much to so many people, including our family."