Farmington Hills baby receives heart transplant after 9 months

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published June 23, 2020

 Farmington Hills baby Ewan Ormerod received a heart transplant after nine months in the hospital. Here he smiles for a photo at the hospital in mid-May.

Farmington Hills baby Ewan Ormerod received a heart transplant after nine months in the hospital. Here he smiles for a photo at the hospital in mid-May.

Photo provided by the Ormerod family

 Ewan Ormerod celebrates his first birthday at the hospital with his mother, Megan Ormerod, center, and her two sisters, Colleen, left, and Maureen, right.

Ewan Ormerod celebrates his first birthday at the hospital with his mother, Megan Ormerod, center, and her two sisters, Colleen, left, and Maureen, right.

Photo provided by the Ormerod family

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FARMINGTON HILLS — For the past nine months, Farmington Hills parents Bill and Megan Ormerod have been faced with a burden no parent should have to bear.

In October 2019, they received the hard truth that their then-11-month-old son, Ewan, would need a heart transplant in order to live. Ewan is now 1 1/2 years old.

Two weeks after Ewan’s birth, his body temperature dropped drastically and his skin began to turn blue. He was rushed by ambulance to the hospital. Doctors spent the next two weeks determining that Ewan had a condition called sepsis-induced dilated cardiomyopathy, which causes a person’s left or right ventricle — in Ewan’s case, his left — to become abnormally enlarged and weaken the heart’s pumping action.

Doctors established a treatment plan, and over the next four months, Ewan’s condition looked better. He was able to go home. On Oct. 18, however, Ewan was readmitted to the hospital, followed by a near-fatal scare Oct. 29, when Ewan went into cardiac arrest. It took 10 minutes of CPR to revive him.

On June 12, the Ormerod family finally received the good news that there was a heart available for Ewan.

“I think we were both kind of speechless,” Bill said of his and his wife’s reaction. “We’d been alternating days at the hospital with (Ewan), and I was on my way out. … My phone rang, and the doctors called and asked if I could come back upstairs, at which point I thought that was maybe what they were going to tell me, but I wasn’t sure. It was a huge relief, as much as anything.”

Ewan underwent surgery for his new heart in the early morning June 13.

“(The surgery) went very smoothly, and he did very well during the surgical period,” said Dr. Jennifer Blake of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, adding that Ewan’s ventricular assist device helped make him a stronger, healthier candidate for the transplant.

Megan said Ewan is doing “really good” after surgery.

“He just had his breathing tube taken out June 16, so he’s a little more awake. He’s still on a lot of pain meds and things, but he looks really good,” she said.

Blake said it’s hard to 100% know when Ewan can return home, but she’s hopeful he may be able to in the next two or three weeks.

While the Ormerods are grateful and relieved their son received a heart transplant, the journey to get to this point wasn’t easy.

“There were days where it definitely felt like this is our new life. It’s never going to change. We’re always going to be here,” Megan said. “With all the COVID-19 stuff happening, that for me made it seem like we were really going to (be at the hospital) forever.”

“We talked about it, and we were both kind of at that point where we were mentally preparing ourselves for the idea that it just wasn’t going to happen. I think we were at that point,” Bill added.

Still, his parents know their journey to keep him healthy is really just beginning.

“This is a stage where there’s a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. We’re definitely not out of the woods yet, but we’re getting there,” Bill said. “It’s never going to be a situation where it’s totally resolved.”

Ewan will be subject to periodic biopsies to check for heart rejection. Early on, he’ll be required to have weekly blood work done, which will stretch as he grows up, but only to roughly every three months. He’ll be required to take drugs to help with immune suppression, which may put him at higher risk for reduced kidney functions or cancer. His parents will have to keep his immune system in mind when thinking about schools and daycares. Eventually, Ewan will need another heart transplant.

Blake said the timeframe for when another transplant is needed depends on many factors.

“It depends on how much rejection they’ve had and other complications, but organs can last, on average, about 15 years. It can be much longer than that if it’s well taken care of. We have infants that were transplanted like Ewan was who are now in their 20s with their original transplant.”

Days after Ewan underwent his surgery, Bill and Megan still couldn’t put into words what it really meant to them to have a heart donated to Ewan.

“The fact that someone at probably their worst moment ever in their life — losing a child — thought about other people and tried to turn that situation into something good, it’s hard to express in words what that means, especially being on the receiving end,” Bill said. “They turned their worst day into something that is a miracle for our family.”

“We’re so grateful to anyone that put any thought into our family,” Megan added. “It just means the world to us.”

People can continue to follow Ewan’s journey or donate to his Children’s Organ Transplant Association campaign at https://cota.org/campaigns/cotaforewan.

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