Anderson Moreno’s family is hoping the toddler soon will be home, if not for Christmas, at least by the New Year.
Anderson, who celebrated his first birthday on Tuesday, received a heart transplant on Nov. 5 at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.
He had been in the hospital since June 2, waiting for a donor.
“It was 150 days to the day that they received the phone call; 150 days that he was in the hospital,” said his grandmother, Lisa Collins of Kimball Township.
Anderson’s parents, Alicia and Andrew Moreno, live in Big Rapids. Collin said her daughter has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Ann Arbor while her son-in-law works in Cadillac during the week, joining the family on weekends.
“We will celebrate Thanksgiving at the Ronald McDonald House,” Collins said.
She and her husband, Howard, have become strong advocates for organ donations.
“We got on the list and we received our gift of life,” Collins said. “That was what we were waiting for, to have that success.”
Anne Paschke, a spokeswoman for the United Network for Organ Sharing in Richmond, Virginia, said it's crucial that people register as organ donors.
"Obviously for adults it's important that we make that decision and let our loved ones know that if we die in a way where we can become an organ donor and we have documented that decision, it's much easier for families," she said. "They don't have to make that decision for us.
"Obviously for parents of young children the parents will make that decision for them,"
She said it's not unusual for older children to let their parents know their wishes when they first get a driver's license.
"It's also helpful to know that some good has come out of your family's tragedy," she said.
She said there are 56 children younger than 1 year on the waiting list for a heart in the United States.
In 2015, 127 pediatric patients younger than 1 received a heart transplant. This year through Oct. 31, 113 children younger than 1 had received a heart transplant.
Anderson was diagnosed after a standard well-baby checkup in May with a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. The left ventricle of his heart was enlarged.
Surgeons on Aug. 20 installed a left ventricular assist device – a pump that assists Anderson’s heart and blood flow.
Collins said her grandson is the first person younger than 1 year to come off a left ventricular assist device to a successful heart transplant.
She said the family does not know much about the donor.
“I believe it to be somebody a little bit older,” she said. “We have a one-year wait then my daughter can send a letter to inquire.
“They are a huge blessing to us at this time.”
She said Anderson has had a couple of fevers since the transplant and has a respiratory infection, but he recently was taken off a ventilator.
“We’re hanging in, waiting for a positive word every day,” she said.
Collins said her advice to families going through the same kind of ordeal would be to remain positive.
“Just to hang in there,” she said. “There are wonderful and fantastic families out there who have the forethought to help other babies so they don’t have to go through that.”
As of Nov. 1, there were 3,604 people in Michigan waiting for organ transplants. That includes 128 patients like Anderson Moreno waiting for heart transplants.
Of the state's 7.6 million adults, 55 percent are registered organ donors. 285 people became organ donors in 2015.
A record 524,000 people joined the Michigan Organ Donor Registry in 2012 — over 30 percent more than the 398,000 who joined in 2011.
Since 2007, residents no longer sign the back of their Michigan driver’s license to indicate their wish to be an organ and tissue donor. Instead, they join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry and receive a red heart logo for their license or state ID.
On average, 17 Michigan residents have organ transplants every week. The supply of organs available doesn't come close to meeting the demand. Michigan has more than 3,500 people on the waiting list. The number is about 124,000 nationwide.
Organ donors can save up to eight lives and tissue donors can substantially improve life for up to 50 sick or injured people.
People can register to become an organ donor when renewing their driver's license online or at a Secretary of State Branch office. They can also go to the Michigan Secretary of State website at michigan.gov/organdonation; to the Gift of Life Michigan website at www.giftoflifemichigan.org; or they can call Gift of Life at (866) 500-5801.
Source: Gift of Life Michigan, Michigan Secretary of State