“Mav was such a light to everybody”

Patient Stories |



Four-year-old’s valiant struggle post-transplant ends, but his bright smile and tender heart will long be remembered.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Maverick Stump had a way of lighting up the world around him.

He didn’t need words to show his love.

He had that grin.

And those expressive eyebrows.

Mav, who captured the hearts of all who knew him and many who didn’t, passed away over the Fourth of July weekend. For his family, the fireworks in the night sky were a reminder of his bright light.

The 4-year-old underwent a multi-organ transplant in December and struggled to recover. IU Health transplant surgeon Dr. Richard Mangus performed the operation to replace the boy’s stomach, pancreas, liver, and small and large intestines.

It was his last, best chance to live.

And it was the right decision, say his parents, Amber and Ray, who watched as their son dealt with serious digestive disorders for years.

“His gut didn’t work at all,” Amber said. “It started off with his stomach and got to where his intestines didn’t work either. He was having a lot of line infections from being on TPN (tube feedings) at home, and so we were running out of access.”

The transplanted organs never quite felt at home in Maverick’s body, despite doctors’ best efforts to keep them functioning.

Maverick’s transplant was a challenge to begin with because he was already “very, very ill,” Dr. Mangus said in an earlier interview. “Basically, all of medicine has failed to fix the problem to the point where the only way to keep him alive is to transplant multiple organs simultaneously.”

“Surgery gave him his best shot, and I don’t regret it,” Amber said this week, a few days after laying her son to rest.

“We would have done anything to save him. And the doctors and nurses and therapists and everybody involved – we all tried so hard. Mav tried so hard. We said if he was tired and worn out, when he was ready, he could go.”

Maverick, who spent much of the past seven months at Riley Hospital for Children, went home on palliative care in May. Team members in the PICU lined the hallway to say goodbye to the longtime patient, marking his discharge with music, noisemakers, cheers and a few tears.

He returned to Riley again in June, then went home on hospice care. He passed away July 3.

The sloth-loving boy was beloved at Riley. Known as the PICU mascot, he enjoyed nothing better than riding through the halls of Riley in his little car or a Riley wagon.

He was a social butterfly, giving “knucks” to anyone and everyone he could.

And there was always that grin.

“Mav was such a light to everybody,” his mom said. “He had a smile on his face every single day and didn’t meet a stranger. He just loved everybody. I hope that we all can learn a little something from him. Even on the roughest days he kept a smile on his face, and we should too.”

That’s more than one can expect from a grieving mom, but she is giving it her best – if only to honor her son.

“It hurts so bad, and I feel so empty inside, but I know he wouldn’t want me to sit here crying and not getting out of bed.”

The Mount Washington, Kentucky family, which also includes Mav’s big sister, Ema, were surrounded by love and light as they laid him to rest in a cemetery near their home on Saturday.

A large contingent of Riley team members came to celebrate his life, along with other friends and family. Among the posters put together for the service was a large display of photos of Maverick’s friends at Riley.

“We feel very lucky to have spent the last few months of his life up there with people who loved him so much,” Amber said. “They all truly do love him, and if we couldn’t have been at home, we were in the right place.”

Music therapist Kalin Hagedorn recorded one of Mav’s favorite songs, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from the movie “Toy Story,” over the sound of his heartbeat and gave it to the family. They played that recording at the service.

At the graveside, they played his favorite “Lion King” song, “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” and blew bubbles in the rain. Not long afterward, the sun came out.

“It was so pretty,” Amber said. “We made it as happy as he would have wanted.”

In honor of their little social butterfly, the family planted butterfly bushes in their landscaping Monday, two days after Maverick’s funeral.

“We just love butterflies and I hope these bushes attract all of them,” said Amber, who finds comfort in her faith even as she grieves the loss of her little boy.

“I do believe we will see Maverick again, and I can’t wait for that day.”

Photos submitted and by Savannah Anderson and Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org

Previous stories:

Mom thanks Riley team and organ donor “for giving our Mav a shot” - After multi-organ transplant, 4-year-old “PICU mascot” has endeared himself to everyone he meets.

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Richard S. Mangus, MD, MS

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