At one-year-old, Nolan McLaughlin has already been through more than most. Born six weeks early, Nolan was in and out of hospitals as he fought respiratory issues. On Sept. 30, 2013, at just five months old, his condition went from bad to worse. This time Nolan wasn’t responding to the normal treatments. Doctors did a chest x-ray and realized Nolan’s heart was enlarged.
When the McLaughlins arrived at Children’s, they were taken to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU). “The staff was very welcoming in what was a really crazy and scary world,” said Corinne, Nolan’s mom. The family then met with the transplant team. The gravity of the situation hit hard.
Nolan was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. To survive, he needed a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD), which helps the heart function until a donor heart is available. Peter Wearden, MD, surgical director, Pediatric Heart and Lung Transplantation, prepared the family for this procedure. “Dr. Wearden instilled a lot of confidence in us that everything would go well,” said Corinne. “I know that Dr. Wearden is an amazing surgeon so I had full faith that everything would be OK. And it was.” The day after the VAD procedure, Nolan was put on the transplant list.
At 8 a.m. on Jan. 23, 102 days after being placed on the transplant list, the McLaughlins received news — there was a donor heart for Nolan. “I was very relieved and thought, ‘OK, we’re going to make it.’”
Nolan went into surgery at 9 p.m., and the surgery ended around 5 a.m. “It was the longest night of my life,” said Corinne. “It’s a day that you never forget, and it truly is like another birthday for him.”
On March 12, Nolan was released from Children’s and moved into the nearby Ronald McDonald House with his parents, and on March 28, the family headed home. They were a complete family, along with 3-year-old Riley, for the first time in 6 months.
“Overall, this has been a great experience, and we are so glad that we chose Children’s. It’s a shorter trip to go to Philadelphia, but the minute we walked in, I knew we made the right choice.” The doctors, nurses, therapists, and transplant team exceeded all expectations. “The whole continuum of care, every single aspect of it, was great.”
The situation has also made the McLaughlins and their friends think more about organ donation for themselves as well as for their children. Corinne said they hope to meet the donor’s family one day. “I want them to know how courageous they are and how well we will take care of their son/daughter. I want them to know we will do our best to make sure he/she continues to thrive for many years to come. I just want to give them a big hug and let them have their time with Nolan, should they choose. I really want to know that they are OK.”
On April 12, Nolan turned one. The family was ecstatic for this birthday, that just months earlier, they weren’t sure they would get a chance to celebrate.