A Mustang High School student needing a heart transplant received an early Christmas miracle.
Ethan Ellis, 17, received his heart transplant Dec. 21 at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, according to his mother, Chandra Sowers.
“We got the call at 8:40 p.m. Our OR (operating room) time was 1:30 a.m.,” Sowers said.
Ironically, Sowers got the call as she was leaving the hospital to put her mom on a plane home.
She said they did a U-turn and headed straight back to the elevators.
It was a call the family wasn’t expecting. A previously planned transplant of a donor heart fell through a few weeks earlier after Ethan’s antibodies attacked cells from the heart.
“It was an amazing surprise. It was terrifying, but it is a lot of relief; definitely relief,” Sowers said.
Throughout the 10-hour surgery, she received updates on the progress as other family members made their way to St. Louis.
“The news just kept getting better and better. We were just relived that he is doing so well,” she said.
So well, in fact, that the chest tubes were removed a few days after the surgery, and Ethan was moved back to his old room.
“We are out of ICU and in his old room. He’s been up doing physical therapy,” Sowers said.
She said she is not sure of the next step. Ethan could be released in a few weeks, but will remain in St. Louis to make sure everything is progressing as expected, or the family could return home and continue receiving treatments locally.
“My guess is that we will be here,” Sowers said.
Her son also will remain on anti-rejection medications for the remainder of his life.
Little is known about the donor. That information won’t be made public for a year.
Ethan, who is a student at Mustang High School, has been at Children’s Hospital since Sept. 11, when the family went to St. Louis for testing after doctors at OU Medical Center detected an issue.
The trip, which everyone expected to last a few days, turned into a bigger issue.
In a previous story, Sowers said her son’s heart turned out to be much sicker than expected.
Ethan has previously had five open-heart surgeries, including one that occurred when he was 4 months old.
He was diagnosed with ventricular septal defect, which is a hole in the heart. The disorder can occur in 1 in 500 births.
Most recently, he was diagnosed with heart failure. The transplant was his only hope, his mother said.
Laura Holley, a spokesperson for the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, said the organization has been raising funds to help Ethan with post-transplant expenses.
Donations to help the family can be sent 2501 W. COTA Drive, Bloomington, IN, 47403. Please make checks payable to COTA with “In honor of Ethan E.” written on the memo line.
Any money that is donated goes to Ethan for transplant-related expenses, Holley said.
The hope is to raise at least $60,000 to help the family.