Thanks to a new heart, a teen can return to football and horseback riding
Oct 5, 2012 at 12:28 PM
This October, one Wills Point, Texas, teen is hoping to return to the soccer field for another chance to make a goal. A pretty common desire for a Texas teen. But a really big one for Harley Duffer. Just two years ago, he could have died while throwing passes, kicking goals, playing tennis and riding his beloved horses.
Sonya and Taylor Duffer use the word ‘unbelievable’ to describe the medical roller coaster ride they have survived with their now 15-year-old son, Harley.
During the fall of Harley’s 7th grade year, he contracted a virus with flu-like symptoms during the football season. Once he felt better, he started playing sports again. One afternoon while participating in tennis conditioning, Harley began to complain of pain in his chest. Over the coming weeks, he complained that the pains were getting worse so his parents scheduled a visit with their physician, who began treatments for seasonal asthma. When he did not appear to be getting better, a chest x-ray was ordered to rule out pneumonia.
What the December 2, 2009, x-ray showed was a heart that was three times its normal size; and a boy who was a walking time bomb in imminent danger of suffering cardiac arrest. That day the family was sent to a pediatric cardiologist in Dallas who, after running numerous tests, admitted Harley to the pediatric cardiac ICU unit.
“It was a surreal experience,” Sonya said, describing December 2nd, a day filled with doctor visits, tests, hospital transfers and more tests. Harley was diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, which accounts for up to 4% of deaths in sports and 5% of sudden cardiac deaths in people younger than age 65.
The exact cause of Harley’s condition is unknown, but it was possibly related to the flu virus he had contracted earlier in the fall.
Throughout all of the stress the Duffers were facing due to Harley’s grave medical condition, they also worried about the financial implications of a heart transplant. During one of their many meetings at the hospital, they were introduced to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA).
“COTA has been the uplifting force that we all needed to get through this journey. COTA gave our family and friends a way to help once we discovered that Harley’s only chance to live was a costly heart transplant. Without COTA, I think all hope might have been lost,” said Sonya.
On December 14th after being transferred to the intensive care unit at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Harley was placed on the transplant list. On Christmas Day 2009, Harley and his family received the best gift of all … a new heart. Three days after the transplant, Harley was on his feet, and by New Years Day he was headed home.
Three months after that, he was cleared to return to school.
According to Sonya, “Harley being alive today is a miracle. Literally one day he was playing tennis at school and the next day we were rushed to cardiac ICU. Two weeks after that he was on the waiting list for a new heart. Our miracle … our now healthy Harley … is one that likely would not have occurred without COTA by our side.”
The Children’s Organ Transplant Association is a national charity that provides fundraising assistance to transplant families. Since 1986, COTA’s priority is to assure that no child or young adult is denied a transplant or excluded from a transplant waiting list due to lack of funds. 100% of all funds raised in honor of transplant patients are used for transplant-related expenses.
For more information about the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, or to find a COTA family in your area, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.