Hayden was born a happy, healthy baby, but things quickly changed when nurses noticed that his breathing had picked up and he was struggling. After being rushed to a hospital in Dayton, Ohio, Hayden was diagnosed with hypo-plastic left heart syndrome. He underwent a series of three surgeries on his heart:  one at four days old, one at six months old and the third at age four.

When you ask Hayden about how he made it through so much at such a young age, he responds the way many kids do. He doesn’t remember the pain, the fear or any anxiety about having heart issues. He only remembers asking for chocolate milk to take his medicine after his third surgery. Hayden didn’t truly know how sick he was. He knew that he could run a mile with his friends in gym class, but he would get there a little slower. He would say, “Go ahead, I’ll get there. I have half of a heart.” Hayden didn’t understand the severity of his situation because he felt healthy. However, that all changed in October 2016 when Hayden was a freshman in high school.

During a checkup, doctors realized that his heart was declining and sent him for further testing at Cincinnati Children’s. Along with his parents, Christa and Scott, Hayden listened as doctors said that his heart was failing and that he would need a heart transplant.

“I was shocked. I knew that I wasn’t as well as the other kids, but I didn’t ever think I would need surgery or need a new heart.”

Instead of preparing for his first Homecoming dance, Hayden was worried about being placed on the transplant list. He tried to stay in school in Anna, Ohio, but as his health continued to decline he was forced to leave his home and be admitted to Cincinnati Children’s until a heart became available. Hayden’s family moved into a room at our House so they could be right by his side. Months went by with no news of a new heart. As a teenager far from home, the wait was agonizing.

On April 4, 2017 at 1:15 a.m., the phone finally rang. Almost six months after being put on the transplant list, there was a heart for Hayden.

Hayden’s new heart began working well from the start. He spent 13 days in the hospital and was released to finish recovering in a room at our House. Hayden’s mom, Christa, was excited to have him experience the peace and quiet that comes when you don’t have nurses waking you up at all hours. She said she felt like she was sleeping on a bed of clouds each night. “The bed is the absolute best part of the House for me!” she said.

As for Hayden, as he got stronger he enjoyed spending time in our game room. He turned the closet in his room into a shrine for his prized Lego creations. Perhaps his favorite part about living with us were weekend brunches!

“This place is amazing. People just need to come here and see it and see why it’s so important. When we go home, we have to come back because there are a lot of volunteers that we need to do something for.”

After 79 nights with us, Hayden and his family got the good news that they could return home! Unfortunately, a few months later, Hayden found himself facing more tough news. He developed a form of cancer from the treatment he received for his transplant. We were here to welcome his family back into our home with open arms for another 32 nights. Despite this setback, he pushed through and was able to finish his chemotherapy at the end of 2017  and is now in remission. His heart is still doing well and he was able to go back to school full time for the first time in a year.

The journey our families take with their sick children is unexpected, unpredictable and unimaginable. We can’t change that, but we can be here for them when they need us. Thank you for helping us welcome thousands of families like Hayden’s into our Home.