Ryan’s Story

Teen Heart Transplant Recipient Urges Others to Consider Organ Donation

ryan-2-200-x-300A routine pregnancy quickly turned into a life threatening situation for Colleen’s son Ryan soon after Ryan was born. 

“A nurse at our local hospital checked Ryan’s heart and discovered he had a heart murmur,” says Colleen, of Metamora, Michigan.

What came next felt like a horrible dream for Colleen and her family.

Further tests revealed Ryan had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a condition in which the left side of the heart does not develop properly while the baby is in the mother's womb. In the normal heart, red blood returning from the lungs, flows from the heart's left upper chamber called the left atrium through the mitral valve to the left ventricle where it is pumped through the aortic valve and out to the body. In babies with HLHS, the left side of the heart is underdeveloped and cannot pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.

ryan-3-200-x-300Babies with hypoplastic left heart syndrome may seem healthy at birth because the patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is still open. The PDA is a blood vessel that connects the pulmonary artery to the aorta, allowing blood to continue circulating directly into the aorta and out to the rest of the body, bypassing the lungs and the defective left side of the heart. Once the PDA closes a few days after birth, blood flows to the lungs and then to the left side of the heart, where it is blocked and can't circulate through the rest of the body.

Without treatment, babies afflicted with hypoplastic left heart syndrome can die within the first days or weeks of life. Treatment consists of a heart transplant or a series of surgical operations to restore the function of the left side of the heart.

“Due to Ryan’s condition including additional medical complications, Ryan was taken by ambulance to Children’s Hospital of Michigan and put on the heart transplant list,” says Colleen.

ryan-200-x-300Ryan was on the heart transplant list for 10 days and a heart quickly became available. Ryan was transplanted when he was 3 weeks old.

Jennifer Blake, MD, pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Hospital of Michigan who has managed Ryan’s heart care says Ryan’s family has done a very good job in the care needed after his transplant which is the perfect way to honor his donor and donor family.

“Patients like Ryan have been known to keep their original transplanted heart for up to 30 years with diligent care,” she says.

Fast forward 17 years and Ryan, who is pursuing skilled industrial training in school and recently bought his first car and taking pride in restoring it, has thrived with his heart transplant and has not had any major complications. He says most people would not know that he had the life saving transplant as a baby.

“I don’t shy away from telling people about my heart transplant and aim to spread the word about how important it is to become an organ donor,” says Ryan. 

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