WAYNESBURG BOY AWAITS TRANSPLANT FOR HEART CONDITION By Walter Doerschuk The Press-News Published: December 10, 2014 10:00AM
It was a little more than seven and a half years ago that Lavonne Dougherty received the troubling news.
She was pregnant with her fourth child, a baby boy that she would name Micah. She was receiving an ultrasound when doctors discovered they couldn’t get a good picture of of Micah’s heart.
Doctors then decided to perform a fetal echocardiogram. It was during that procedure that doctors discovered Micah had hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The condition, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is a birth defect that affects blood flow through the heart. Only the right side of the heart functions properly.
“A lot of kids don’t have the left side of their heart. Micah has all of his chambers, but the left side doesn’t work,” Dougherty said.
The news was not easy for her to take.
“I was shocked and overwhelmed,” she said. “That’s not something you expect to hear.”
Doctors told her there were three options. One was to terminate the pregnancy, the second was to have the baby and do nothing and the third was to perform multiple surgeries on Micah.
She decided to visit a perinatologist who told her “We can fix this” and it was something they dealt with before on plenty of occasions.
With those words, Dougherty noted the first two options were not at all a way she wanted to go.
“I couldn’t make that decision to terminate in three days,” she said. “I had just told my other kids I was pregnant so I couldn’t have done that.”
Micah Muller had his first surgery performed when he was just one week old.
He was able to go home for the first time two weeks later. But Micah had trouble eating and wasn’t able to suck a bottle.
He was readmitted to the hospital just a week later. He had a second surgery for an aneurysm in the left side of his heart and something that was not expected, Dougherty said. Doctors came in the morning of his surgery at 6 a.m. to have a chat with Dougherty, and he was in the operating room by 8 a.m.
Micah then had a second expected surgery at the age of five months. The surgeries, however, are performed in three stages.
“His heart functions so poorly that put the third stage off the table,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty and her family were told the third stage was no longer an option when Micah turned four years old. The family has known since then that a transplant is now the next step.
Micah has been on the 1a level for a transplant, the highest level of need.
For a while, Micah was able to live at home and was managed as an outpatient. He has been able to attend school at Sandy Valley Elementary.
Dougherty said her son was permitted to participate in gym class, but was not forced to do anything and could pull out if needed. She added Micah’s condition limits his physical abilities.
Regardless of his condition Sandy Valley Elementary principal Vic Johnson said Micah has been an inspiration.
“Micah is one of the most amazing young people I have ever met,” Johnson said. “Courage and energy are two words directly associated to him.He has taken on this challenge since birth, never wavering. He’s full of life every minute of the day. You can’t help but smile when you’re around him.”
Micah was admitted back into the hospital on Sept. 25 and has been there since then.
Dougherty has been staying in the Ronald McDonald house to be as close to Micah as possible. Her daughters have been back home in in Waynesburg excluding Cassie who is a sophomore at Kent State. Madeline is a sophomore at Sandy Valley High School and Julie is in sixth grade at Sandy Valley Middle School.
Micah’s three sisters have visited as much as they can. But they are involved with a number of activites, including soccer, marching band and basketball. Dougherty said it has been difficult to be back with her daughters at home.
“I still have to be a mom,” she said.
Dougherty said she appreciates the help she has received from the Sandy Valley schools and community. Teachers have cooked meals for her household, she said. The school has raised money through penny fundraisers and Spirit W eek. Students were asked to pay $1 to wear the themed clothing during the week. Bracelets were also sold, and teachers have sent cards and donated money.
“I’m very lucky to live in a wonderful neighborhood,” Dougherty said. She later added, “If we lived in Canton, I can’t imagine this thing happening. There is something to be said for living in a small town.”
Johnson said he was pleased with the schools’ efforts to help one of their own.
“I’m very proud of the efforts of our student body at the elementary, middle school, and high school,” he said.
Dougherty said some charitable groups have also spent their time with Micah at the Cleveland Clinic.
A Special Wish Foundation Cleveland Chapter volunteers its time with gift drops, food and characters from well-known books and movies.
Micah has received visits from characters including Spiderman, Iron Man and Thor.
The Cleveland Cavaliers also recently paid a visit to the Cleveland Clinic last week to visit young patients.
“It was overwhelming,” Dougherty said. “They shut down the whole place.”
Micah was visited by three groups of Cavaliers. The third group included LeBron James.
When the group walked in the room, Micah was playing a video game. Dougherty said James saw it and said “That’s Mario Kart” and started talking about it. She has video of Micah asking the Cavs superstar “Do you want to play?” Due to time constraints, James said he wasn’t able to, but also said he would play the next time he visits. Micah also took some photos with Cavs players including star point guard Kyrie Irving.
As Micah and his family still continue to await a transplant, Dougherty said it’s difficult asking for help with medical bills. She said she would much rather be the one providing instead of receiving help.
A benefit account has been established at The Bank of Magnolia, and a GoFundMe page has been set up as well by one of Dougherty’s friends. More information can be found at http://www.gofundme.com/hq8108