Caleb Kinnaird waited 321 days for suitable heart donor

Doctor says he should have near-normal life

INDIANAPOLIS - A happy little boy and his delighted parents are home in New Castle, nearly a year after they began the agonizing wait for the heart transplant that was the only hope to save his life.

Two-year-old Caleb Kinnaird finally got in the car and put his long ordeal behind him.

The little boy faced problems no 2-year-old should face, and his parents knew that the odds were against him surviving long enough to get the transplant he needed.

On Tuesday, all that heart-wrenching waiting paid off.

This time last month, Caleb Kinnaird couldn't jump and spin like he did as he watched through the window at Ronald McDonald House for his dad to bring up the family vehicle to take him home to New Castle.

Kinnaird was born with tricuspid atresia, a heart valve defect that made it difficult for him to get the oxygen he needed.

He needed a heart transplant, but it had to be toddler-sized. Because of problems with his own immune system, about half of the potential donors had to be eliminated.

The Kinnairds waited 321 days, the longest any inpatient Indiana child has ever spent waiting for a heart, until what they believe was a miracle finally happened on Sept. 25.

"We've lived at the Ronald McDonald House for a whole year," his mother said. "And it's been, honestly, some of the hardest times in our life and some of the best times in our life, because we're closer as a family than we've ever been, because we've gone through this and survived it."

Kinnaird has improved remarkably since the surgery, but his parents said the year they all spent waiting was often depressing and discouraging -- especially when the doctors told them they didn't believe Caleb would last that long.

"I remember when they told us that," his father said. "At first it was really heavy to take. And then the more I thought about it, you know, I realized that makes every single day that we're here, that he is still alive, every single day was a miracle."

Caleb is now being fed by mouth and is showing a healthy pink, not the blue oxygen-starved look he displayed for months.

And he said he's ready to go home and play with toys.

Caleb's pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Randall Caldwell, said that, aside from anti-rejection drugs, he should have a close-to-normal life.

"He should be able to go to school normally. Normal play activities. About the only thing we wouldn't want him doing is playing professional football. Anything else is fine," Caldwell said.

Caleb, his parents, and his 4-year-old brother, Jonah, are enjoying a new house that Caleb had never seen until Tuesday. And soon he'll be enjoying his new sister, Lucy, whose arrival is imminent.

Follow Norman Cox on Twitter: @normancox6

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