Video: A Heart for Hudson

Born with a severe heart defect, Hudson experienced a harrowing journey before he had a heart transplant at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Read Hudson's story.


Video: A Heart for Hudson

Tori DeMartini, Mom: That's the first day we brought him home when he was a baby.

Hudson DeMartini was born with a severe heart defect.

Tad DeMartini, Dad: Without medical or surgical intervention, 100% of babies with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome would die within three or four days after birth.

Hudson underwent three open-heart surgeries so he could survive.

Tad: Even though he wasn't feeling well, he’d usually be pretty upbeat.

When he was 2 1/2, Hudson was finally home and healthy. His parents, both pediatricians, rejoiced.

Tad: He told me that the reason he likes cars is because I like cars and he just wanted to hang out with me which was nice.

Anything can happen at any time and we have to make sure you get the moments in that you can look back and remember, no matter what happens at the end.

Tori: About eight months after his third surgery, I noticed he was coughing one week.

Hudson was in heart failure.

Tori: We always knew that CHOP was one of the top children's hospitals and we knew that we would want a top hospital for Hudson. They said, "We think we should go ahead and list him for transplant."  It was definitely scary, and we didn't really know what it was gonna to look like. But it was something that we thought was gonna be a relatively quick process.

After 18 months on the transplant list, Hudson suffered a stroke. He almost died. The team at CHOP saved his life.

Tori: Everyone started to feel now, the sense of urgency, because now, he's starting to see complications from this long wait. We ultimately decided with the medical team that it made the most sense to go ahead and live at CHOP. We became very close friends with some of the families and other kids who were living in the hospital. We had our own little community there. He spent hours just working on this car, driving it around, up and down the halls. He got speeding tickets from the nurses.

Hudson stayed at CHOP for more than six months.

Tori: Most of the time we were at the hospital, I felt very positive, and I felt like Hudson was going to get a heart. As we got to know a lot of other families who were also living there waiting for transplants as well, some of those children didn't survive. And we in fact, had two very close friends of ours die within a week's time and that's when it really sinks in that maybe this won't happen. Maybe this is gonna be how our story ends too.

I woke up to my phone ringing at 5:20. It was one of Hudson's cardiologists, and she said, "We have a heart."

Hudson waited more than two years for a heart.

Tori: So I woke him up and he sat up in bed and I said, "Hey buddy, guess what?  Today, you're gonna get your new heart."  And he climbed up in my lap and started crying. I think he understood how big of a deal it was. I was scared. I was scared I was sending my baby into the OR and he wasn't gonna come back out. I knew that there were high risks. One of the nurses called to tell me that the doctor wanted to come out and talk to us. We definitely didn't expect to see her yet.

Hudson's now a little over a year since his transplant. He's grown so much in the past year. To see him be able to play with his brother and sister for hours without getting tired, is something he's never been able to do before. We look back on it and just hard to believe that this is the same kid.

Tad: Gonna help me?  Yeah?  All right. Can you grab me the ratchet and the spark plug socket?

Tori: I know that CHOP is a place that is always pushing the limits. They're very innovative. They’ve tried new things all the time and are constantly trying to be better.

Tad: I believe in miracles because I've seen them. But those miracles didn't just happen.

Tori: All of that happens because people do invest, and people do make donations or care enough to put the time and energy in so that kids like Hudson can survive and go on to live a full life.

Tad: We are in an amazing spot in regards to what we can do medically. But there is still so much more to do for both Hudson and many other children like him.

The Cardiac Center at CHOP cares for thousands of patients every year. The future is uncertain for many. We have so much more to do. Join us.

Hudson: Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Foundation, Cardiac Center