The heart be with you!
Few things in life are harder than knowing your child is sick and suffering. This is especially true when the conditions are life-threatening.
That was exactly the case for Mary Anglin and her young son Austin Eggleston, 15, who was suffering from multiple congenital heart defects.
Not only was his family concerned about his overall health, but once he qualified for a heart transplant, a whole new battle began: finding an appropriate donor. Waiting lists for these kinds of procedures can last months or—the older the candidate gets—years, and patients must pass the time in hospitals or treatment programs hoping their condition doesn’t worsen.
In Austin’s case, however, there was an extremely happy ending featuring one of his favorite movie characters, and now his heartwarming tale is going viral.
Life Springs From Death
According to UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are currently hundreds of thousands of candidates across the United States waiting for a donor match for their organ transplant.
The organization works through an online network of listed donors and potential matches, and when an organ or tissue becomes available, UNOS’ job is to help find the perfect match based on a variety of factors such as age, location, urgency, and general medical history. The importance of organ donors cannot be stated enough.
Austin’s mom Mary has been sharing his journey over the past few months on social media. As his conditions worsened, Austin had to leave school to move full time into Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. At the time, he said, “I’m pretty nervous. But I’m going to enjoy not having to come to school, at least.”
Once he stopped responding to treatment several months back, he was placed on the donor list as an eligible candidate.
When he was first placed on the list, Austin and his cardiologist, Dr. Phillip Thrush, both realized they had something important in common: They both love Star Wars. Should the lucky day ever come when they found a match for Austin, Dr. Thrush had the idea that he should dress up as Chewbacca to deliver the good news. Austin agreed.
Thrush followed through on his promise on March 17, and the video has since gone viral around the world. Watch for yourself as Austin is sitting in his room when the unmistakeable Wookiee sneaks into the door. Before he can even grunt, Austin realizes what’s happening. “We got a heart?” he asks, timidly. “Do we seriously have a heart? Holy balls!”
Austin certainly didn’t need to speak Shyriiwook to know good news when he heard it! Once the exciting news has been delivered, Austin jumps for joy before exchanging a round of high fives with Dr. Thrush.
By the time the video went viral, Austin was already in and out of surgery.
Over the past week, his mother Mary has been posting updates to her Facebook page regarding Austin’s surgery, which was a success.
On March 18, she wrote, “Short update-Austin is doing as well as can be expected. He Is not a fan of the breathing tube so he’s pretty ‘comfortable’ with some assistance. We got to see a glimpse of him today in between med doses…got a few thumbs up 👍. Hopefully tomorrow after further tests they will attempt to extubate. Thanks for all the prayers and support. We are unable to return all the calls, texts, and messages but thank you. We will try to continue to update, but our main concern is to be here and present with him so please be patient.”
Speaking of his successful match and surgery, she later said, “To see him knowing that he has a chance at life, that he has a chance to achieve so many things leaves you speechless.” Austin’s story truly warms our hearts.
This isn’t a totally isolated incident either, which makes Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago sound even more like an amazing place. Spokesperson Kathleen Keenan said, “They have a lot of fun on the floor. Since kids wait so long for a heart, the doctors try to make their stay here more palatable, so they really get close with the families in the unit.”
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