Parents of a one-year-old boy who had a life-saving heart transplant are searching for the family that donated the organ.
Titus Sickles, of Toledo, Washington, was born in January 2018 with a heart defect that made it difficult for blood to throw through his body properly.
His parents, Rena and Andy, were told he wouldn’t survive surgeries because his heart was so weak and he would need a transplant.
Just two months after he joined the transplant list, a donor heart became available and Titus underwent the surgery at Seattle Children’s Hospital in April.
To mark his first birthday last month, his parents organized a photo shoot and are sharing it online in the hopes that the donor family will see it and they will have a chance to thank the parents for helping save their son’s life.
The parents of one-year-old Titus Sickles, who had a life-saving heart transplant, are searching for the family that donated the organ so they can thank them
Titus (left and right) was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect in which the left side of the heart does not from correctly. This makes it difficult for blood to throw through his body properly
In one photo, Titus is wearing jeans and plaid suspenders, sitting next to a chalkboard.
A message on the chalkboard reads in part: ‘I understand if it hurts too much to reach out to us, but I need this to reach my donor family so I can say thank you for the gift of life. I’m healthy and alive because of you!’
Rena told DailyMail.com she first knew something was wrong with Titus when she went in for her 18-week scan to find out the sex of the baby.
‘When I got home, I saw that I had two missed calls,’ she said.
‘I remember thinking: “Either I left something in the room or there’ something wrong. I already had three boys so this was not my first rodeo.
The next morning her OBGYN called her and told her Titus has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect in which the left side of the heart does not from correctly while the baby is in the womb.
Because the left side of the heart is unable to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, the right side is responsible for pumping blood to both lungs and the rest of the body.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 960 babies are born in the US every year with this defect.
Problems quickly arise soon after birth including difficulty breathing, a weak pulse, and a bluish skin color.
Sufferers may need to take medications to lower blood pressure and strengthen the heart muscles for the rest of their lives.
Surgery is another option to help restore heart function by increasing blood flow throughout the body.
However, if the defect is severe or surgeries leave the heart weak, then a heart transplant is necessary.
Titus’s parents said they originally believed their son would undergo three invasive surgeries to correct the problem
Doctors told Rena and Andy that their son would not survive operations and would need a new heart. At the beginning of March, Titus (left and right) was transferred to Seattle Children’s Hospital and put on the transplant list
‘I called my husband and bawled,’ Rena said. ‘And then I made the mistake of googling it. I was a wreck for two to three weeks.’
Over the next several weeks, the couple learned Titus has several other heart defects. This included a hole down the middle wall and double outlet right ventricle.
This is a condition in which oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix together before leaving the heart, according to Seattle Children’s Hopsital.
Additionally, Rena said that his lungs were receiving three-and-a-half to four times more blood than they were supposed to.
At six weeks old, he was a Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland for observation.
Doctors told Rena and Andy, he needed surgery to repair his heart but also that his heart muscle was so weak that he would likely not make it off the operating table.
On March , Titus was transferred to Seattle Children’s Hospital and, one week later, put on the transplant list.
As they waited – doctors said it would be at least three months – Titus’s condition worsened.
Rena said on Easter Sunday, April 1, she took her other children to an Easter egg hunt and, when she came back, Titus was ‘grey’.
‘I had to look at the monitor to make sure he was alive,’ she said.
‘His organs were starting to shut down, his eyes were yellow.
I told my husband: [Titus is] sick of fighting and I don’t know how much longer I could ask him to. I was pretty sure God was going to call him home very soon.’
The very next day, they got a call that a donor heart was available.
A donor heart became available in April and, on April 7, Titus underwent the four-hour procedure at Seattle Children’s. It was their 200th transplant
Now, Titus (left and right) is at home and thriving. His parents not only hope to thank the donor family but want to raise awareness for transplants and organ donations
On April 7, Titus underwent the four-hour procedure at Seattle Children’s.
Rena said that because only an hour passed from when the heart was taken from the donor’s body and transplanted to her son, she and her husband believe the family is from the Seattle area.
On Titus’s first birthday last month, the family did a photo shoot dedicating it to the donor family.
‘We wrote letters to them with no identifying markers – because of privacy rules – and they didn’t reach out back,’ she said.
‘I kept getting this crazy though that was bending the rules. I’d seen signs of someone holding a sign saying: “I’m adopted and looking for my birth parents” but I’d never seen anyone do it for a donor family.’
Rena said that even if the family doesn’t reach out to them, she wants to express her thanks.
‘I wanted them to see he’s doing amazing and thriving because of them,’ she said.
She added that she also wants the photo shoot to raise awareness for transplants and organ donations.
‘So many lose their battle before their life-saving organ arrives and Titus was almost one of those,’ she said. ‘If more people realize this maybe they would choose to be a donor.’
A family friend established a
So far, more than $5,700 has been raise out of a $15,000 goal.