The tiniest transplant is a gift of love

Print
Email
|

by GARY REAVES

WFAA

Posted on December 25, 2010 at 1:20 PM

Updated Sunday, Dec 26 at 10:25 PM

PLANO — Posing with his parents and baby sister, three-year-old Keegan Harrison appears to be the picture of perfect health.

But on the day he arrived, doctors doubted he would survive his first month.

"He was dying from the minute he was born," said his mom, Maddie Harrison. "He went into surgery right away. He was at Children's before he was three hours old."

That operation at Children's Medical Center Dallas revealed a heart that could not be repaired.

"We both talked that night," said his father, Gray Harrison. "We didn't think this would end well at all."

Keegan had less than three weeks to receive a miracle transplant — a healthy heart smaller than a walnut.

The doctor warned that the odds against it are usually insurmountable.

"She asked us to come into a conference room, which usually meant bad news," Maddie Harrison recalled. "At that point, we thought it was over. But we turned the corner ... and they all started cheering and clapping and Dr. Guleserian said, 'We have a heart for Keegan!'"

At five pounds, he was the tiniest heart transplant patient in Texas history, fortune born from Kevin and LaMonica Whittaker's tragedy.

Their first son, Johnston, was born the same day as Keegan Harrison.

"Our child was perfectly fine," Lamonica Whittaker-Walker said. "We don't know why he passed. It was written down as SIDS [sudden infant death syndrome]."

In the Harrison home, thoughts of the Whittakers' loss — and their gift — are always as close as the picture of Johnston in Keenan's room, in a blue frame that says, "My Angel."

"You grieve for them, and every time, we unfortunately celebrate Keegan's birthday — because his donor was born on the same day — we feel that."

For the last year, the two families have been talking by phone and e-mail, building to this day when they will meet in person.

"I hope they like him," Maddie confessed. "I hope they love him as much as we do."

The Whittakers, too, were a little anxious to see the child who lives with their late son's heart.

"Through the blessing, Keegan was able to receive his heart," Kevin Walker said, holding the couple's second son, Kingsley. "Now they have a beautiful boy."

"And we do, too," Lamonica added.

"We're going to call him his brother for right now," Kevin said.

The Whittakers said they never doubted their decision to donate Johnston's heart; when they met Keegan, they could see why.

It was a moment filled with hugs and smiles — then, finally, tears.

And with a little prompting from his mom, Keegan showed the Whittakers where his "special heart" is.

Then, using a stethoscope, Lamonica listened to the sound of her son's heart beating in Keegan's chest.

The tiniest transplant. A gift of love.

E-mail greaves@wfaa.com

Print
Email
|