Valerie and I were raising two cuuuuuuuuute little boys in late February, 1995 when the younger, eleven-month-old Trenton, lost the strength to breathe while being treated in the ER at Dallas Children’s Medical Center. Prior to this, we had no idea Trenton was ill, but now we were learning his heart was enlarged and Valerie had just saved his life by taking him to the hospital. Four days later, Trent arrested and we lost him for nine minutes. Doctors called it a one-in-ten chance that he would come back and yet he did, but he likely wouldn’t live more than two weeks without a heart transplant. Less than three days after being listed, Trent received what the surgeon called an “ideal” heart. And, less than two weeks later, on his first birthday, Trenton came home. I attended the funeral for the donor baby, but that’s a story for another time.
Normal life was meds every six hours, checkups monthly, and a full day of exams at the hospital annually. It may not sound normal, but when that’s all you know, it’s normal and that’s OK.
Immunosuppressant meds come with a roulette wheel of potential side effects and the wheel stopped for Trent on cancer when he was a senior in high school. The highlight of this adventure was not chemo, baldness, or late-night hospital visits. Rather, it was Trenton’s attitude. He never complained, and even told a friend, “I’ve been through worse than this; I’ve had a heart transplant.” He also showed no emotion at the last oncology appointment when we learned the chemo worked. Afterward, I asked Trent, “So, what did you think of the news?” Trent responded, “I knew it.”
Just before graduating high school (on time, in spite of missing nearly four months), Trent was granted a wish by Make-A-Wish Foundation. A friend from his senior class, Rachel had lost her mother to cancer just before Trenton’s chemo began; so Trenton asked, “Could I give my wish to Rachel? She’s been through worse than I have.” That’s not how it works, so Trenton was granted his wish - we met Metallica, but that’s a story for another time.
Trenton began his freshman year in 2012 at the University of North Texas in Denton partly to be near home (a half-hour drive) and doctor Mom. He was excited about apartment life his sophomore year, so it was reason for concern when Trent didn’t feel well, choosing to come home the first night. Although doctors said to watch Trent and bring him in the next morning, Valerie saved his life again, overruling the doctors and driving immediately to Children’s. Soon after arriving at the ER, Trenton’s fever spiked over 104, his blood pressure was dropping rapidly and two bags of IV were quickly sweated out. Blood pressure finally began to stabilize after lowering the head and raising the foot of his bed for the blood to circulate back to Trenton’s upper body, but this effort continued throughout the night before finally settling at a satisfactory level. The next two days required gowns and masks as the source of infection was investigated. Eventually, it was determined that a procedure the previous month had led to an infection on Trent’s heart. Equipped with the cause, we could then receive the cure, but again Trenton didn’t complain, especially when he was able to eat regular food (ICU nurses at a pediatric hospital are not used to seeing the pizza guy delivering to patients).
Valerie is good at worrying, especially about Trent. In fact, I think she may sometimes worry about not having something to worry about. Her worries about the effects of the heart infection were confirmed, however, in March, 2014 when the cardiologist informed us Trenton’s body was beginning to reject the heart, and another transplant would eventually be required. Trenton nonchalantly stated, “Well, it’s got to be June or July, because I’m busy with school.”
Trenton suffered a heart attack on May 21 while running at a friend’s house and was taken by ambulance to Children’s. The following day, after a regular procedure, his heart stopped beating and he left us for six minutes (but that’s a story for another time). A few days after recovering, Trent was transferred to Baylor hospital in downtown Dallas, because they were the only program willing to transplant him after being just two years cancer-free. Nine hours after being listed, Trenton received his second heart transplant. Baylor produced this video of Trenton's story.
Recall Trenton’s requirement that he not miss school. The spring semester ended May 10th. His heart attack was May 21st. He was transplanted May 31st. He left the hospital June 17th. Rehab lasted until the end of July. A week later, he moved into his fraternity house. A week after that, he started the fall semester of college – missing no school.
How’s he doing since? He’s fine:
Graduated with an engineering degree.
Employed as a software developer.
Engaged to wonderful Jessica.
Living the life of a regular guy.
…but that’s all a story for another time.