In the fall of 2021, 11-year-old Jayden started vomiting often — soon it was happening every day, sometimes more than once. “We took him to the E.R., to his primary care doctor,” says his older brother Travis, who is Jayden’s primary caregiver. “No one could figure out why. They were thinking it was a digestive issue.”
It was a tough time. The brothers were still grieving their mother’s death from cancer just a few months prior. Jayden’s vomiting and stomach pain persisted for weeks. Then his legs began swelling. Jayden’s primary care doctor was concerned about the swollen legs and ordered imaging. That’s when it was discovered that his heart was enlarged.
Jayden was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Cardiomyopathy can lead to heart failure. He was admitted to a local children’s hospital and put on medications, but he didn’t improve.
“The doctors met with us, and they mentioned transplant,” says Travis. They suggested transferring Jayden to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), where the experts at the Heart Failure and Transplant Program have extensive experience treating heart failure in children of all ages.
“They’ve been an amazing team,” Travis says of CHOP. “They explained everything about the procedure and what Jayden had to do to be in good enough health for a transplant.” Jayden first underwent surgery in December 2021 to implant a left ventricular assist device, which is a pump that does most or all of the work of the heart.
After a few weeks, they received the call: a heart was available. Travis laughs with amazement about Jayden’s reaction. “He was acting like he wasn’t nervous — like just nonchalant. I asked him, ‘How are you not afraid?’ If that was me, hearing they’re going to take my heart out, I wouldn’t be that brave!” Travis thinks Jayden was taking after their late mother. “Mom had brain cancer and three operations, and she was always tough. He gets it from her.”
The transplant surgery in February 2022 was successful, and Jayden’s recovery has been steady. When it was time to go home, “They were great in training us,” Travis says of the CHOP team, “and were always checking in on us.” Jayden, now 12, was able to return to school near the end of the spring semester and was recently cleared to play sports. “We’re getting back into a routine,” Travis reports happily.