Harold and Stacey Sanchez celebrated the 10th year of their child’s heart transplant this week. Ian Sanchez, 10, received the gift of life with a heart transplant when he was 3-months-old.
The Sanchez family, of Fayette County, honored the generosity of organ donors during a presentation at the Washington C.H. Bureau of Motor Vehicles on Wednesday.
When people say “yes” to be an organ donor at the BMV, they are registered with the Ohio Donor Registry. But what that really means is that they say “yes” to saving a life through organizations that work to match organ donors with recipients and make transplantation possible.
When 2-month-old Ian Sanchez slept in late one Sunday afternoon in 2006, his mother, Stacey Sanchez, was not immediately concerned. The family had been busy and Ian’s baby check-up earlier that week at the doctor’s office had shown Ian was in excellent health. The Sanchez family took a short trip out of town, returning Sunday for services at Anchor Baptist Church on Jamison Road in Washington C.H.
But something about Ian’s irregular sleep that Sunday afternoon concerned Stacey enough to place a call to the pediatrician, who confirmed something was not right with Ian and suggested the family go to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Upon entering the ER, the family was rushed to a room where doctors delivered shocking news to the family: Ian’s heart was three times the size it should have been. Ian’s condition was called dilated cardiomyopathy—his heart was so enlarged it was unable to pump blood as it normally would. Ian was in heart failure.
“Ian was hooked up to all kinds of IV medications. His little body had wires and tubes attached, helping him to fight to stay alive,” said Stacey. “I would stand on my tip-toes and hover over him since I couldn’t hold him. I started to pray like I had never prayed before.”
As the Sanchez family waited for a miracle, Ian’s heart function dropped to just 5 percent.
“Ian fought hard to live,” Stacey said. “Transplant was mentioned and I fought it with every ounce of my being. There were so many unknowns and so many fears. There was a day though that we saw it. We saw that Ian’s only chance for life would be in the form of a heart transplant. I remember telling Ian’s doctor that if he told us that this was Ian’s only chance to live, we would go forward and start the process.”
They didn’t have to wait much longer. Six days later, on April 27, 2006, Ian’s doctor called Stacey at 4 a.m. The call could have meant only one thing: a heart transplant had been found. Ian was taken into surgery.
“We all rejoiced and then at the same moment our eyes filled with tears, knowing that at that moment while we were rejoicing there was a family going through the worst night of their life. This gift of life was going to save my baby boy’s life,” Stacey said.
Jessica Petersen works for Lifeline of Ohio, the independent non-profit organization that provides families like the Sanchez’s with organ transplantation. She said Ian’s heart transplant came from another small child.
“We want to show the world that transplants work,” Petersen said. “Ian is now 10 years old. He was only 3 months old [at the time of transplantation]. Ten years is a really big achievement.”
Central and southern Ohio residents should feel good about their efforts to provide organ transplantation: 91 residents provided an organ donation in 2015. With 60 percent of Fayette County residents now registered as organ donors, local people are helping Lifeline of Ohio to provide organ transplantation and save lives.
“Fayette County residents are generous and life-saving,” Petersen said.
It’s generosity like that of Ian’s donor family that saved Ian’s life and allowed him to quickly recover on his own.
“We were out [of surgery] and home in less than two weeks. We got our miracle,” Stacey said. “Transplant life has its ups-and-downs but most days are good. We get up in the morning and it’s a good day and we live it. Transplant has completely changed the course of our lives.”
This year Ian will compete in the Transplant Games of America in Cleveland on June 10-15. The Olympic-style games help to raise awareness for organ transplantation and promote donation.
“We’re running the torch around the state,” Petersen said. “Today Ian gets to hold the torch. Ian will be competing against other recipients in his age group.”
Ian said he had never been to the Transplant Games of America. “My mom and me looked it up online, and we saw it, and what I like most is soccer,” Ian said. “But I don’t want people to look at me.”
Although seeming a bit shy of people watching him play soccer at the Transplant Games of America, Ian was all smiles when he said he looked forward to scoring goals at the games. “What I like about soccer is offense. I would like to be goalie at the games, but my favorite is offense.”
The Fayette County BMV, a part of the Donate Life team, was also honored on Wednesday for its work in registering organ donors when they come in for vehicle registration. Fayette County BMV’s number of registered donors in 2015 exceeded the state average. Look for more on this recognition in Friday’s edition of the Record-Herald.
“Ten years today we received that call that saved our son’s life. We are eternally grateful for our donor family, for each and every moment our family has together. Each memory we make is a gift, a gift from God all made possible by a family who in their moment of grief said yes to organ donation,” Stacey said. “We’ve received a huge gift and with gifts come responsibility.”