A 9-year-old Indianapolis boy is recovering two weeks after undergoing life-saving, heart transplant surgery.
“He’s doing very well,” said Michael Dieter’s mother, Jennifer Gray. “He was off the breathing machine less than 24 hours after transplant. He was sitting up in a chair the next day and up and moving. He’s been walking every day with physical therapy. Working a little bit with art therapy and occupational therapy just to get muscles moving. He’s said a couple times that he’s bored, so that’s exciting because he’s doing really well.”
The young boy had been living with a complex, congenital heart defect.
“The pumping chambers of the heart didn’t form properly,” explained Dr. Robert Darragh at Riley Hospital for Children. “They didn’t separate properly, so he required several surgeries when he was young, trying to give him at least a normal oxygen level, albeit not with a normal four chamber heart. Unfortunately, his heart didn’t handle that stress over time and progressively got weaker. In essence, he had heart failure.”
Students at Our Lady of Lourdes rallied behind Deiter’s medical crisis in May by wearing “super hero” costumes and sold bracelets in honor of their classmate. Doctors hope Deiter will be reunited with his school friends soon.
“Our hope is by second semester of his school year, he’ll be back with his class, he’ll be doing normal activities for kids his age,” said Dr. Darragh. “He’s not cured. He’s always going to be taking medication.”
Doctors say Deiter will eventually resume physical activity.
“He needs time to get his heart rate up if he’s exercising. He can’t just be standing and go and sprint and be able to go very far because it’s going to take longer for his heart to respond to what the body needs,” said Dr. Darragh. “If he does it properly, that’s what the transplant Olympics are all about. They can do a lot of physically challenging things.”
Deiter’s mother says her son misses spending time with his family, friends and the family pet.
“He has a yorkie that sleeps with him. We have a yorkie blanket and yorkie animals. We were fortunate to have a couple visits with ‘Bucky’ here at the hospital following certain rules, which really helped a lot. Being away from his dog, his best friend is hard,” said Gray.
“He was able to have visitors pre-transplant under certain conditions, so that helped a lot as well. I’m sure we’ll be Skyping once school starts. That will be a big mood-enhancer for him,” said Gray. “He’s gotten mail, he’s gotten packages. He’s gotten the visits, the texts, the FaceTiming. It’s all helped him stay connected.”
Deiter’s mother is hopeful her son will eventually live a normal life.
“Michael doesn’t know what it’s like to run and not be tired. He doesn’t understand why people would say, ‘Did you just have a blue popsicle or a blue sucker?’ because with a lower oxygen level, his color was a little off. His lips were a little purple or a little blue,” said Gray. “I’m just excited for him to be able to get back outside and self-police himself and do 9-year-old things, hang with his friends, take care of his body… just for him to be healthy and happy.”
Deiter’s mother said her son’s attitude through the medical challenges has been amazing.
“He keeps going. He doesn’t give up. He might have some bad days or some crabby hours here, but he keeps going. He’s a happy kid,” said Gray.
The heart now beating inside Deiter’s chest comes from an organ donor. The boy’s family does not know anything about the donor.
“We have no idea what happened to the other child. Most likely, it was some kind of accident. You have a very high-stress grieving time and you’re making a decision that will literally save a life,” said Gray. “This child saved more than just Michael’s life. So, just thankfulness and appreciation for a decision a family made when it was a terrible time for them that they had the ability to look forward and see what good could come out of a tragic situation on their end. Michael will take great care of that heart and we’re so very thankful that he had a second chance.”