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Hearing that your child needs a transplant to survive isn’t something any parents wants to face.
For the Mudds, they received the news that their son, Michael, needed a heart transplant to survive.
He was just a year old.
But on March 10, 2015, the Mudds celebrated a happier occasion: Michael’s one-year anniversary of receiving a new heart.
In the year since his surgery, Michael has become a new kid — running around, playing and wrestling. Everything a normal toddler should be doing.
“It’s amazing,” said Lindsay Mudd, Michael’s mother. “This is Michael. This is what he should have been from the beginning. It just proves to me that this heart is the one for him. It’s so sad another baby had to lose their life, but Michael is getting his life because of that.”
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When Michael was born, he was the first child for Lindsay and Tim Mudd.
They had no idea anything was wrong with him and when something suspicious would come up, the pediatrician would tell them it was all normal.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
“Every time we went to the pediatrician, we would say we felt there was something wrong,” Tim Mudd said. “We begged and pleaded for them to figure out what it was. Everyone was calling us paranoid first-time parents.”
When he was 6 months old, Michael was taken to daycare where the teachers grew concerned over his labored breathing and sweating.
When the pediatrician still didn’t believe anything was wrong, the Mudds switched doctors and on the first visit to the new one, it was immediately apparent something was wrong.
“He was started on a nebulizer,” Lindsay Mudd said. “They couldn’t diagnose him. He was horrible when he used to go to the pediatrician’s office. He would scream because he was so scared, so they never really got a good listen to his heart.”
During one trip to the doctor’s right around his first birthday, Michael fell asleep in his mother’s arms and they were finally able to check his heart and discovered a murmur.
The next day, the Mudds were sent by ambulance to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in the city and after a week of tests, Michael was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy.
“It’s a rare disorder of the cardiac muscle,” said Dr. Matthew O’Connor, one of the cardiologists at CHOP. “It’s described as an abnormally stiff heart muscle. An X-ray showed his heart was enlarged.”
There are no medicines that are known to improve patients with restrictive cardiomyopathy so the only option for Michael was a heart transplant.
“It was the worst time of our entire lives,” Lindsay Mudd said. “Even though it’s so horrible, the doctors there are amazing and their nurse practitioners were walking me through everything.”
All this while the Mudds were expecting their second son in just a week.
While waiting on the transplant list, Michael was able to return home, where he was kept secluded.
“He couldn’t get sick,” Lindsay Mudd said. “If he got sick and there was a new heart available, he’d get skipped on the list. We just holed up inside the house and if we’d go out, we’d have our masks on and he’d get a bath as soon as he got home. We did that through flu season.”
Three and a half months after Michael was diagnosed, the long-awaited phone call came at the Mudd residence.
“We got the phone call that they had a new heart for him,” Lindsay Mudd said. “Of course, I fell to my knees and started crying. I just remember the nurse practitioner calling me and she just said I had to breathe and that it was not a race — just get there. She told me what I was supposed to be doing.”
Around midnight on March 10, 2014, the doctors began the procedure and after what felt like an eternity, Dr. Chris Mascio, who performed the surgery, came out to tell them everything went smoothly.
It was determined after taking the old heart out that it was on its last leg.
“(Mascio) said as soon as they took the clamps off, his heart started pumping on its own,” Lindsay Mudd said.
Michael’s father couldn’t be more thankful to the team at CHOP who helped every step of the way.
“We’re just so blessed they were able to save our baby,” Tim Mudd said. “CHOP has been outstanding and has helped us in every way imaginable.”
Now, Michael is a whole new child and the Mudds are learning how rambunctious a toddler can be.
“We’re just getting into the fun now,” Lindsay Mudd said. “Now, we’re taking him out without a mask on and we’re going to the park and going to the zoo and doing all these fun things. Since he has gotten his new heart, he doesn’t sit still. He’s on the go and getting into everything he’s not supposed to.”
With the new heart, Michael no longer has restrictive cardiomyopathy, but he isn’t completely cured as he will be on medicine for the rest of his life to prevent his body from ever rejecting the heart.
“We never tell families that the transplant is a cure,” O’Connor said. “We’re careful to explicitly say it’s never a cure. With a heart transplant, we trade one disease for another, but that new disease gives them a new lease on life.”
Though the same was said to the Mudd family, Tim begs to differ a bit.
“The one misconception is that you’re trading one illness for another, and I guess factually speaking you are, but in one way, I don’t agree with that at all,” he said. “I think you’re given a chance at life.”
And that is exactly what Michael has been given.