Rare. A word that no parent wants to hear when their child has been diagnosed with a critical illness. But that was the case for Devin, who was born with many heart abnormalities, including hypoplastic right heart syndrome. For his parents, Tiffany and Jack, the life they dreamed of for their first born child would not go as planned. Within hours of being born, Devin was transported from his home town of Bradford, Ohio to Cincinnati for a life-saving heart surgery. That surgery wouldn’t be the last, unfortunately. Over the course of the next 14 years, Devin underwent five more surgeries on his heart to keep him alive, but his family knew that these were only buying time. What Devin really needed was a new heart.
In 2016, a lung condition known as plastic bronchitis began putting a strain on Devin. When the efforts to help him failed, his medical care team realized that it was time to list Devin for a heart. He was officially listed on January 18, 2016. His parents had hoped he would be able to wait for the new heart at home, but his health continued to decline. As he was admitted to Cincinnati Children’s, doctors moved him to the top of the transplant list. His parents moved into a room in our House, just steps away from Devin. And then the phone rang at 11 a.m. on December 3, 2017. There was a new heart for Devin.
In a matter of hours, Devin was prepped for surgery. With a surgery of this magnitude, it can take many hours for the patient to wake up. The wait was excruciating for Tiffany and Jack, but they were thrilled when some of Devin’s first words were, “I’m so happy they gave me a new heart!”
While the surgery was a success, the initial recovery was tough for Devin. It was hard to sit in the hospital room and be isolated from everyone, especially when his parents kept telling him about all of the wonderful things waiting for him at Ronald McDonald House. Finally, after what seemed to be the longest month ever, Devin walked through our front door for the first time. Weak and fragile, he was so happy to be out of the hospital. Instantly, his mood and attitude improved. He could be with his family, enjoy delicious meals, and have so many spaces to explore and just be a kid.
As Devin continues to get stronger each day, he looks forward to the therapy dog visits and meeting with Ms. Karen, a teacher at our House who helps him keep up with his school work. He enjoys when the balloon artist visits, snack times and finding things in his mailbox!
Devin loves making friends with others staying in our House. Sometimes, his friendship does more than he’ll ever know. He has formed a friendship with Nick, a new dad who is staying in our House with his wife so they can be near their baby who has a similar heart condition to Devin’s. The two play video games together. While Devin enjoys hanging out with Nick, this new father has been inspired by Devin and the future of his own child with heart issues. These sorts of bonds would never happen in a hotel, but our House makes that possible.
With tears in her eyes, Devin’s mom, Tiffany, wants you to know this:
“This House means more to people than anyone would know unless you’ve had to stay here. It’s not just a House, it’s your home. What it does for the kids…I’m at a loss for words. Everything they’ve been through is so hard, but to be able to come here and have things to do so they don’t feel alone means everything.”