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Auburn 3-year-old gets his 'miracle'
Auburn 3-year-old gets his 'miracle'
By JOAN DEMIRJIAN
A "miracle" happened June 28 for Charlie McMicken and his family. He is no longer connected to an intravenous tube or oxygen line. The Berlin Heart that was helping his own heart pump blood throughout his body is no longer needed.
After nine months of waiting for a heart transplant while at Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital in Cleveland, the 3-year-old boy has received that new heart.
One of the first things after waking up from surgery that he asked his parents, John and Sarah McMicken, of Auburn, was when he could go home.
"It's been quite a journey for him and for the family," Mr. McMicken said. He and his wife take turns, each spending two days with Charlie, 24 hours, seven days a week at the hospital. The have four other sons at home.
Charlie was born with cardiomyopathy. His heart had enlarged and was not functioning properly.
He is a very vibrant, active and energetic boy and never looked sick, Mr. McMicken said. However, his enlarged heart was resting on a lung, making it difficult for him to breathe. That is when doctors informed them that Charlie would need a heart transplant.
The tough part was learning he would have to wait in the hospital until a heart was available, Mr. McMicken said. Since Oct. 3, 2011, he has celebrated Thanksgiving, his third birthday, Christmas, Easter and now the Fourth of July in the hospital.
However, Charlie adapted so well everyone has been amazed, Mr. McMicken said. "He's a trooper. He very rarely complained."
When his heart function declined further, after about four months in the hospital, he was equipped with the Berlin Heart, which helped pump blood throughout his body, Mr. McMicken said. "That saved his life. It is a bridge device that cannot be used indefinitely."
On the morning of June 28, Charlie's doctor walked unexpectedly into his room. Mr. McMicken was staying with him that day. "The doctor said, 'We've been offered a heart for Charlie, and I accepted.' I called Sarah to tell her."
The heart was flown in on a jet which landed at Burke Lakefront Airport. It took three hours and 20 minutes from time it was removed from the donor and flown to Cleveland and then placed in Charlie. He had been prepared for the surgery, and, by the time the new heart was implanted, it was beating on its own, Mr. McMicken said.
Charlie woke up, and, when he didn't see the Berlin Heart, he asked if they had found a new heart for him, his dad said. "When he learned they had, he said, 'Can I go home now?'"
However, the doctors wanted to test this week for any rejection of the new heart by his body.
His brothers are ecstatic that Charlie will be coming home, Mr. McMicken said. "It's been tough on them too," he said of Ryan, Johnny, Jake and Michael.
The family does not know who the donor child was, but they will be able to write a letter to the medical team, which can respond. If the donor family chooses to do so, they can correspond. The McMickens would pass along their sympathies to the family that lost a child. "It had to be tragic," Mr. McMicken said.
They have learned the family of the child decided without hesitation to donate eight of the child's organs, he said. "I think it was amazing and helped so many. It is just a miracle."
The donor and recipient have to have matching blood types.
Charlie is on strong anti-rejection medication and will need to take it for the rest of his life.
When he does go home, for at least the first six months, he is at high risk for infections. A cold could be devastating.
After that, the goal will be to get back to normal as much as possible, Mr. McMicken said. "He wants to see his dog, and he already wants to help me cut the grass and go fishing."
Mr. McMicken praised the doctors and hospital staff who cared for Charlie. "Some of the best cardiologists and heart specialists are there," he said. "They did a perfect job, keeping him ready for the heart transplant. It's amazing to me what the doctors do."
Over the months, the community also supported the family, holding fundraisers to help pay for Charlie's care. More than 75 people provided daily prepared meals for the family.
"People, including neighbors, friends, businesses and people we didn't know, helped out," Mr. McMicken said.
The proceeds from fundraisers went to the Children's Organ Transplant Association for pediatric transplants in Charlie's name. Costs for transplants depend on how long the patient has to wait. Nine months in the hospital can cost in excess of $1 million.
Charlie will have access to the funds now and the rest of his life for hospital and medical bills. They have raised $115,000 since last January. Individuals also have made donations.
"People were understanding, compassionate and generous," Mr. McMicken said. "The support from the community is overwhelming and beyond imagination."
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