When you meet Asher, the first thing you notice is his big smile and the cute laugh that leaves it. “He likes to smile at the girls,” his mom Kendra says. “He’s such a little flirt already.”
What you may notice next are the wires attached to his stroller and the beeping of a machine that sits at the bottom of it, or the mask that wraps around his face to help him breathe.
“Asher hasn’t followed the normal path of anything,” Kendra says.
Just six weeks after he was born, Asher was placed on the transplant list to wait for a new heart. After a prenatal ultrasound, he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy when his doctor noticed something unusual about his heart.
While Asher waited for his second chance at life, he went into end stage heart failure and his kidneys and liver began to shut down. His doctors emergently placed him on a Berlin heart to keep him alive until a new heart became available. Surprisingly, on what was only supposed to keep his heart beating until he could receive a transplant, Asher thrived.
“He began doing normal baby things,” Kendra says. “He jumped from 10 to 15 pounds and became so much more expressive. He would smile and laugh while he watched people in the hospital.”
The day finally came when Asher and Kendra received news that he would receive his new heart. Asher received his precious gift of life because of a brave family’s decision–a decision that saved his life.
Unfortunately, Asher suffered some complications from his surgery. Within 10 days of his transplant, he underwent another major surgery.
“Asher was intubated in the hospital for the first month after his transplant,” Kendra says. “He was full of fluid and non-expressive…just not himself. It was so hard to go through that and think that I may have to say goodbye to my child.”
Thankfully, Asher made it through his second surgery. When he was finally able to leave the hospital’s care, the Howie’s House became Asher’s first home.
“I love that the Gift of Life Howie’s House is so clean and that it’s safe for immunosuppressed patients like Asher,” Kendra says. “Dinner is always made every night, which is wonderful. The last thing I want to do is cook when I get back from the hospital. It’s also so family-oriented. It was so easy for me to be a mom spending time with my children.”
While Kendra takes care of Asher, her family, including her father and other two children, come down to spend time with them on the weekends.
“One day we sat down in the Activity Center and watched movies all day,” she says. “We also eat dinner together in the garden and go on walks. We even went to a festival at one of the parks nearby.”
At the Gift of Life Howie’s House, Kendra is also able to take care of herself. She takes bubble baths in her private bathroom, uses the gym, reads in the library, sits outside, and participates in the evening activities with her daughter.
She also spends time talking to other families about their transplant care. She even learned that some of them are on the same medication as Asher. “Learning from [the other transplant families] gives me hope,” she says. “I’m less stressed because there are so many people to talk to. I didn’t realize how nice that’d be.”
Asher has recovered so well that he and his family were recently able to go back to their own home, but plan to return to the Howie’s House for their follow-up appointments.
“I know Asher may need more care in the future,” Kendra says. “And I’m just thankful that the Howie’s House exists.”