By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Twelve-year-old Wes Hadley has spent his whole life in and out of Riley Hospital for Children.
“This is our second home,” Tellesa Hadley said recently, while her son joked with one of his favorite people at Riley, child life specialist Courtney Lyon.
That’s true in more ways than one. Hadley has worked in the Cancer Center at Riley for 27 years, most recently as a unit secretary. She took time off to care for her son but will return to work next month.
Imagine how good it felt for mom and son to leave Riley recently with the greatest gift of all – a new heart.
Wes, who was born with a congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome and transposition of the great arteries, has had multiple surgeries to repair his heart, but in the end, a transplant was the only thing that would save him.
“At one point, we thought he needed a heart and lung transplant, but Dr. (Robert) Darragh came into our life and saved him,” Wes’ mom said.
Dr. Darragh, a Riley cardiologist who works closely with transplant patients, and transplant coordinator Regina Rossetter got Wes on the transplant list.
“For a long time, he wasn’t a transplant candidate, Hadley said, “so we’d been waiting for this.”
They expected to be waiting for months. But Wes was at Riley just 10 days before he was matched with a donor heart.
The Jan. 21 surgery, performed by Dr. Mark Turrentine, went well, and Wes was in the cardiovascular intensive care unit for a couple of weeks before being moved to the stepdown unit.
Now that he’s home, his mom can breathe a little easier.
“He has been sick his whole life, and now we are just over the moon,” she said. “He has a new heart. I think I’m still in shock.”
After working at Riley for so long, Hadley knew it was a special place, but she was touched by the care her son and family received.
“The people here have been wonderful to him. He has such a good team. And people outside of here have been amazing, too. It shows you there are good people out there,” she said.
“We’ve lived his whole life wondering what the doctor was going to say next, and now I feel like he’s got a new lease on life. He will be able to do so many things.”
The first thing on his list?
“I’m going to pet my dogs,” Wes said.
His pups, Tango and Cash, were more than ready for that reunion, laying sloppy kisses on his face.
New heart, same boy. Home at last.
The pediatric cardiology program at Riley Children’s Health is ranked best in the Midwest and No. 6 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, email@example.com