Go Jim Go: A new heart means a miracle for teenager

If a picture paints a thousand words, then then you would probably need a few million more words to describe 16-year-old Samuel Marshall's life in photos.

"He has a positive outlook on life. He's always smiling and happy," Rodney Marshall said.

From martial arts to being a lifeguard, preparing for the ACT test, or just helping others, Samuel's parents, Auset and Rodney will tell you he's a pretty exceptional young.

"A lot of people were touched by Samuel, his heart. He has a big heart for people for life," Auset said.

Back in February, Samuel's happy life went from one filled with joy to worry.

"I would say this has probably been the biggest years of my life," Samuel said.

He awoke one morning thinking he had a cold. But he also had slurred speech.

"My speech was like, 'Ruh, ruh, ruh.' It was really hard to communicate and I was wondering what was going on."

Samuel's mom called 911 and he was taken to a nearby hospital.

"When I called 911. This was me saying, 'Okay there's no more I can do. Let go and let God, something's not right."

Something wasn't right. Samuel was suffering from a stroke due to a blood clot to his brain.

"It kind of blew me away because it was so odd," Rodney said. "You might expect someone older to have something."

Fortunately, his doctors were able to remove the blood clot, but they found something else. There was an anomaly.

He had dylated cardiomyopthophy.

"He wasn't here because of what I thought was congestion or stroke, he's here because of his heart. I was like what?"

His doctors said the best place to care for Samuel's heart condition would be Le Bonheur.

"The left side of his heart was bigger than the right side and his heart isn't pumping properly, which is why the blood clot formed and why he had the stroke."

Samuel was in the ICU and his family had two options. The best case scenario was that he would be on medicine for the rest of his life to help his heart function.

"But that was not working," his dad said. "So they put a temporary heart pump in to sustain."

The worst case scenario was he would need a heart transplant.

They prayed and got a lot of support from the chaplain to a cafeteria cashier.

"'We were praying for you.' That meant so much. It seems like no matter i went here at the hospital, there was always somebody with an encouraging word."

An encouraging word would be needed because on Feb. 10, Samuel went into cardiac arrest.

"They shocked me three times and then my heart stopped," he said. "To me that's like clinical death."

He was placed on a device called an ECMO, an external heart pump. Two days later, he would have an internal heart pump installed as they waited and prayed for a new heart.

Then a miracle happened — a new heart was found in only four days.

"He had a lethal condition," said pediatric cardiac surgeon Omuar Boston. "We were able to get him just in the nick of time, and I think the team here is an outstanding team. ... The heart center as you may know is ranked in the top 10 in US News & World Report."

Samuel's getting back to being strong and he's already successfully walked in a 5k race and got a medal. His recovery is influencing a future career in medicine because of Le Bonheur

"So I really do want to give back to the people that have helped me so much," Samuel said.

If a picture of Samuel today could paint a thousand words, the Marshall family says they still would not enough to describe their feelings of thanks for the amazing team of doctors, nurses and staff at Le Bonheur.

"When I pass, I see the heart on top. What a difference a day can make. I'm speechless, but totally thankful to everyone. I thank God and I thank everyone," Samuel said.

"To me it means Le Bonheur cares about everybody, no matter who you are, they don't care, they will help you. "

 

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