By: Jennifer Koski, Post Bulletin
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And he's the recipient of a heart transplant.
Four years ago, when Luke and Jessie Brown found out that Bode was going to be their son through the gift of adoption, they also found out that their unborn child had a heart condition.
"His aorta was too tight," Luke says as Bode cozies up next to him on the couch in their house. "We knew that once he was born, he'd need a procedure to open it — but his doctors hoped it wouldn't be a major condition."
The day Bode was born, Luke and Jessie were able to see their son within 10 minutes. "He looked like this perfect, pink little boy," Luke said. "Even the cardiologist said, 'Maybe I made a mistake.'"
But just when they thought their son's condition might not be as bad as they expected, they learned it was worse. Because Bode's aorta was so small, the left side of his heart had grown too large and couldn't effectively pump the blood he needed.
Bode was flown to the NICU at Saint Marys and put on the heart transplant list. "He was listed as a 'status 1A,'" says Luke, "which means that he needed a heart 'now'."
Organ transplantation wasn't a new concept for the family. Luke, who works as a paramedic with Gold Cross, had transported organs before. In fact, he was once part of a crew transporting an infant heart.
However, that didn't make the emotional toll any easier. While Bode was on the wait list, Jessie and Luke had to grapple with complicated feelings.
"It was really hard for us," Luke says. "Twenty-four hours a day, we were waiting for that call — but at the same time, we felt terrible that another child was going to have to die for Bode to get a heart. We had to come to terms with that — that someone would have to make this incredible gift."
Bode was nearly 6 weeks old when the call came. It was 3:30 in the morning, and Luke and Jessie were sleeping.
"The phone rings, and we fumble around, trying to answer our cell phones, pager, home phone — all those things we kept around us just in case," Luke says. "And then we miss the call! Two seconds later, the hospital calls back. They'd found a heart for Bode."
The couple immediately went to the hospital to see their son and then settled in for the nearly eight-hour procedure. It wasn't long before one of Luke's co-workers called from Gold Cross. "I've got a cooler with your name on it," he said.
Six weeks later, Bode Brown and his new heart went home. In the three years since, he's had his ups and downs. He's suffered a leak in his lung and has contracted a form of cancer that's common among transplant patients.
For the rest of his life, Bode will take anti-rejection drugs that weaken his immune system and make him more susceptible to complications from simple illnesses. The anti-rejection meds are hard on his kidneys.
"There may be a time in the future when a kidney transplant may be necessary—or a new heart," says Luke. "We don't know."
But one look at this little boy and it's clear that he's a living miracle: A happy and healthy child with parents (and one sloppy kisser of a black lab) who are crazy about him.
The experience has made the couple passionate about organ donation.
"Have the conversation," says Luke. "Talk to your family — not only your spouse but your kids, too. It's so important."
After Bode's transplant, Jessie and Luke wrote a thank-you letter to the donor's family. "We don't know who donated the heart, but we know it was a little girl," Luke says. "In our letter, we thanked them. We explained why our son needed his heart. And we told them that through their gift, their daughter is living on. She's living on in Bode."