By Tom Dowd
on March 30, 2013 at 6:00 AM, updated March 30, 2013 at 10:14 AM
Months. Days. Hours. On Saturday, the unit by which Shannon and Andrew Schron measure time shifted. It happened the only way it could, the way they knew it would, with a bolt from the blue.
This was day No. 112 in the hospital for little Jake. That was how Shannon opened many of her updates on Facebook. On day 108, Jake turned 22 months old. He had been placed on the list for a heart transplant on day five.
The first notice that the long wait could be ending comes with a maybe. That was what Shannon told Drew when she called him from Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, where she lived with Jake for all 112 days. This was when time shifted from days to hours.
Maybe there would be a new heart for Jake, who had been diagnosed with end-stage dilated cardiomyopathy nearly four months earlier.
About 9:30 the nurses came to collect Jake, who had just fallen asleep in his mother’s arms. At 11:30, Jake’s new heart arrived at the hospital. By 3:30 a.m. he was out of surgery, with a team of 15 doctors and nurses attending him, a healthy heart beating in his chest.
After 112 days of crushing uncertainty, their wait ended and their prayers were answered. In a matter of hours.
“A ball of emotions,” is how Drew described the day.
“You immediately think about the parents who chose to let their kid be an organ donor,” said Drew, a former football player and coach at Curtis High School. “Your heart breaks, but you’re overjoyed that your son has a heart and a chance to live and lead a healthy life.”
TOUGH, SPIRITED TODDLER
Over those 112 days, some remarkable things happened. It started with a tough, spirited toddler; his mother, who slept in the crib with him at the hospital until they brought an extra bed in; his father, who watched over the 3-year-old twins, Courtney and Mackenzie, while their mother and baby brother lived at the hospital.
By the time Jake got his new heart, their story had gone around the world.
In the days after Jake’s diagnosis, family and friends jumped into action to address the daunting financial consequences. They started with a Facebook page dedicated to Jake and plans for a fundraising dinner. In early January, www.heart4jake.org was launched.
Jake’s Facebook page is filled with pictures of professional athletes, actors, softball teams across the country proudly displaying their “I Heart Jake” signs. Family Photo To date, the original Facebook page has drawn more than 6,000 likes. Traffic to the website features more than 7,000 unique visitors from all 50 states and 77 countries. As Shannon posted updates about Jake’s new heart Saturday night, the “reach” of the Facebook page exploded to exceed 80,000 people.
“In an hour it was 2,000 hits,” said Drew. “I was getting Facebooked from people … ‘I don’t know you. I love you and your family. You’re so strong.’
“Just an onslaught of people. And then we get checks and we don’t know why.” — Drew’s sister, Christine “You’re humbled by it. There’s so many good people in the world that see this thing and are touched by it. My son’s going to be 2 years old and he’s a rock star.”
Today, Jake’s Facebook page is filled with pictures of professional athletes, actors, softball teams across the country proudly displaying their “I Heart Jake” signs.
The 300 tickets for the February dinner sold out in 36 hours. Fundraisers popped up across Staten Island, independent of the committee that put on the dinner. A Texas Hold’em tournament at South Shore Babe Ruth League. A Zumba night at Zion Lutheran Church. Sunday morning bingo at Bungalow 18 in Great Kills.
When the Schrons’ neighbor Tommy Dwyer held his St. Patrick’s Day party, guests filled up a water jug he put out for donations.
‘ONSLAUGHT OF PEOPLE’
“Just an onslaught of people,” said Drew’s sister Christine. “And then we get checks and we don’t know why. ‘Hey, we had a basketball game and we did a 50/50.’ There’s just so many people.”
There are more events to come. On Saturday, the College of Staten Island will host a Jake fundraiser, beginning at noon, featuring the Dolphins’ softball and baseball teams. An alumni softball game featuring former Moore Catholic, St. Joseph by-the-Sea, Port Richmond and Tottenville players will follow. Jake’s mother pitched for Port Richmond and Long Island University when she was known as Shannon Payne.
On April 28, the band Briana’s Dream will lead “Rockers for Jake” with eight to 10 bands playing at the bar and restaurant Arena.
The family hopes Jake will be home by then.
“It depends on how fast he recovers,” said Drew. “A few weeks, could be longer. The way he is, he might be home next week.”
There have been some complications over the first few days, though nothing out of the ordinary. When Jake does come home, there will be a regimen of medications and many more visits with doctors.
“I know from my transplant it’s a lot of stuff,” said Drew, who received a bone marrow transplant from his sister Veronica in 2008 after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “What not to eat. Things to stay away from. You have to be very clean; you can’t be dirty. Scrub things down so there’s no germs around.”
After 112 days, a wait ended. For Jake, a new road started.
“There’s still a long way to go,” said Drew.
They won’t be going alone.
**Please note Jake is our Transplant Hero of the Month. Please visit transplantfamilies.org/heroes . Apply today to be our next transplant hero!