Hope Now
By Deb Slinkman Copeland ’90

Deb CopelandLittle did I know what God had in store for my husband, John, and I when our twin sons, Ben and Drew, were born in Denver, Colo., in 1999. We knew that Drew would enter this world with a congenital heart defect and decisions needed to be made about his care.

Drew was born with a condition called double outlet right ventricle mitral atresia or DORV. It meant the pumping chamber of his heart was malformed and the other large chamber of his heart was doing the job. We considered two options: a heart transplant or a series of surgeries called the Fontan that would help his own heart function without the need of a transplant. After Drew’s arrival the decision was made by our pediatric cardiologist that Drew’s heart could be helped by surgery.

After three open-heart surgeries, heart catheterizations to check the pressures of his heart, and a move to sea level in 2006, we were told in July 2009 that Drew’s heart was failing and he needed a heart transplant. We knew this day would come but expected that it would be when he was a young man. Our heart doctors in Florida, where we had relocated, suggested we move back to Denver for his heart transplant. After many meetings and much prayer, we decided to return to Denver and place Drew under the care of new doctors at The Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Colo.

It’s important to research when considering transplantation. We knew that The Children’s Hospital was ranked as one of the top 10 hospitals in pediatric care in the nation and was on our insurance company’s list of Centers of Excellence. It helped that the surgeon who performed Drew’s initial three surgeries would oversee his transplant. This was important to us because the surgeon already knew Drew’s physiology, which would help rule out complications.

Other statistics that are necessary to know are how often transplants are done in a year, the survivability rate, average wait times for transplants, and if the patient will be placed on a national or regional list depending on severity of sickness.

During pre- and post-transplant, blood draws are frequent. Needle pokes can be terrifying for anyone, especially children. Our hospital performs needle pokes in the fingers instead of the large needle draw in the arm. This may sound like a small thing to endure, but when a child has to give blood twice a week, the idea of a needle creates huge anxiety, something that can be avoided. Most hospitals don’t offer finger pokes for pediatric patients—something that needs to be changed, in my opinion.

Organ Donation

More than 105,000 people are waiting today for transplant surgeries, according to the official U.S. government Web site for organ and tissue donation.

The number of people who need a transplant continues to rise faster than the number of available donors. The waiting list for transplants grows by approximately 300 people each month.

Each day, approximately 77 people receive an organ transplant.

However, 19 people die each day waiting for transplants that can’t take place because of the shortage of donated organs.

Statistics from the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

Seeking God
As John and I placed Drew on the heart transplant list I completely trusted God and did not consider death an outcome for him. After ten years of experiencing God working in our lives I knew that this was another step of faith for us to dig deeper and to know him. The hard part came in the mornings; my heart dipped in disappointment as I woke up and realized the phone didn’t ring during the night. The disappointment drove me to seek God. I prayed constantly and fasted, which wasn’t easy, but my desire to hear from God outweighed the hunger pangs. I kept my eyes on Jesus because if I didn’t the crushing weight of our situation was too much for me. Habakkuk 2:1 states, “I will stand at my watch and station myself at the ramparts, I will look to see what He will say to me, and what the answer I am to give to this complaint.” (NIV)

I believed that the heart God would provide would be perfect for Drew. He was busy preparing the time and coordinating the circumstances that would bring everything together when the time was right. I was aware that this event would mean that another family would lose a loved one, a child, but it was difficult for me to process this heartbreak. My heart was so tender and hurt so much that all I could do was pray that God would prepare the hearts of the donor family and surround them with his love.

Getting the call
We received the call at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, December 21, 2009. By 8 a.m. the next morning Drew was in surgery and by noon his chest was open and his new heart transferred into his body. I wept when DeeDee, our transplant coordinator told me the heart was beating inside his little body. Gratitude surged through my soul and burst through the top of my head; praise and thanksgiving where on my lips and prayer spilled over for the donor family. It will be six months before we can meet them and I can’t wait to shower the family with words of tenderness and love.

In conclusion, Drew is healing and believes that receiving a new heart might be a good thing. His new heart beats so fast that he gets scared sometimes, but he smiles more now than he ever did. He will be on two immune-suppression medications for the rest of his life but as it is written in Jeremiah 29:11, “he has a hope and a future.” (NIV)

As for me, my faith has deepened ten-fold; I now understand the hope that is given to me through Christ and God’s love has forever changed my heart. He is faithful and His promises are true.

Deb Copeland is a freelance writer living in Littleton, Colo.