Boy healing quickly after heart transplant

Jack Conover, 7, of Ridgefield underwent surgery June 14

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter

Published:

 

Follow Jack's progress on the "Jack's Journey" Facebook page, www.facebook.com/jacksjourney2.

Financial donations to help the family cover medical and related expenses can be made to the "Jack's Journey" account at Pacific NW Federal Credit Union, 5411 N.E. Highway 99 in Vancouver.

Cards, letters and drawings can be mailed to Jack Conover, #380, 5130 40th Ave. N.E., Seattle, WA 98105.

Follow Jack’s progress on the “Jack’s Journey” Facebook page, www.facebook.com/jacksjourney2.

Financial donations to help the family cover medical and related expenses can be made to the “Jack’s Journey” account at Pacific NW Federal Credit Union, 5411 N.E. Highway 99 in Vancouver.

Cards, letters and drawings can be mailed to Jack Conover, #380, 5130 40th Ave. N.E., Seattle, WA 98105.

In less than two weeks, Jack Conover went from being a 7-year-old in need of a heart transplant to a vibrant boy walking out of the hospital with a new heart.

The Ridgefield boy, born with a congenital heart defect, underwent a heart transplant June 14 at Seattle Children’s Hospital. On June 27, Jack walked out of the hospital with a healthy heart beating in his chest and a body recovering from the massive surgery faster than doctors expected.

“It’s pretty crazy,” said Jack’s mom, Kelly Conover. “There are a lot of people doing double takes.”

While Jack is progressing quickly, his body is still healing.

Jack is taking immunosuppressants that make him vulnerable to illness. A common cold could land Jack in the hospital, so he isn’t allowed to be around crowds or do other things that expose him to excessive germs, such as climbing on playground equipment. When he does go out in public, he often wears a mask.

While Jack has more energy since the surgery, he still tires easily as his body continues to heal.

“Even though he’s doing really well, it’s only been a month,” Kelly said.

Jack and Kelly are currently staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle. A space opened up there not long after Jack was released from the hospital.

Because of Jack’s restrictions, they spend a lot of time at the house during the week. The basement has a play area with a Wii game system and a pool table that Jack enjoys. He spends much of his time building with Lego kits, reading and following the directions precisely. He loves reading cards and letters he gets in the mail.

Most days, Jack does well. Some days, though, he struggles to understand why he can’t go play outside and do things other kids do during summer vacation. He asks when he will finally be 100 percent.

“It’s tough for a 7-year-old to really grasp what’s going on,” Kelly said.

Jack and Kelly are expecting to be in Seattle until Sept. 15, when Jack undergoes a biopsy of his new heart. Until then, Jack will visit the hospital once a week for check-ups, blood tests and echocardiograms.

Emotional moment

Kelly quit her job at a Vancouver bakery in order to stay with Jack. Kris Anderson, Jack’s dad and Kelly’s fiancé, returned to the family’s Ridgefield home after the transplant and went back to work. Jack’s younger brother, 4-year-old Patrick Anderson, is staying with his grandmother during the week while Kris works.

On the weekends, Kris and Patrick drive to Seattle so the four can spend time together as a family.

During a visit last week, the family got to see Jack’s old heart. The hospital gave them the chance to examine and touch the sick heart that kept Jack alive for 7 years.

“It was exciting and it was scary and it was extremely emotional,” Kelly said. “Not many people can say they actually held their child’s heart in their hands. It was intense.”

Jack’s doctors said there’s a chance he may be released to return home before the Sept. 15 biopsy — possibly in a couple weeks — but Jack and Kelly would still be required to travel to Seattle for Jack’s weekly appointments.

Doctors also expect Jack will be able to begin second grade at South Ridge Elementary School in Ridgefield on time this fall, though he will start with half days.

Until then, Jack and the family will focus on healing.

“Even though it’s tough for him,” Kelly said, “he’s still going at it.”

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