A Heart Transplant Success Story
18-month-old Lily doesn’t know it yet, but she owes her life to the nearly 100-year legacy of Riley Children’s Health. Lily’s father Barrett Younghans, now 30, had a heart transplant when he was 19.
Over a decade later, Barrett Younghans is living life with his new heart to the fullest
“We got a call from his doctor,” said Lisa Younghans, Barrett’s mom. “Get him to Riley.” Those words came as a shock. Barrett was a healthy kid, a three-sport athlete at Goshen High School.
A few subtle warning signs that something was wrong were followed by an overt sign. “We were together in a hotel room. I could hear how labored his breathing was,” said Lisa. Doctors at Riley Children’s diagnosed Barrett with cardiomyopathy. Two months later he was on the heart transplant list. Between diagnosis and transplant day nearly two years later, there were many trips to Riley. It was a scary time, but humor was sprinkled in too. “The nurses at Riley kept running into the walls with Barrett. Barrett was 6’ 3”. They weren’t used to the adult-sized bed!” recalls Lisa with a chuckle.
Finally, the call came that a heart was available. Transplant day was February 12, 2012. “Not one time did I ever feel a shred of doubt about a successful transplant,” said Barrett.
His surgeon was Mark Turrentine, M.D. “Dr. Turrentine instilled confidence in me and my family. As a dad now, I can’t imagine what my parents went through.”
Barrett has just one vivid memory from transplant day: his older sister leaning over his bed in recovery. But throughout his journey, he recalls just as clearly feeling out of place.
“I knew I wasn’t as sick as some of the other kids. I had a problem, but it was fixable. Some of their problems weren’t.” The entire family has given back to Riley over the years. Barrett’s sisters were involved in Riley Dance Marathons while in college. Barrett’s dad, Barry Younghans, Ph.D., a school principal, was involved with the Kids Caring and Sharing program and fundraising for Riley through the Maple City Kiwanis Club.
“People have deep feelings about Riley,” said Lisa. “Come on, a sick kid? It doesn’t get any more difficult than that.” And Barrett's father makes an astute point: “More people are affected by Riley than we know. My assistant just told me she was a Riley kid in 1964!”
Barrett recovered in spectacular fashion. He graduated from college, met and married his wife Chelsea, earned a master’s degree, and is now a teacher. Plus, he exercises a lot. “I don’t struggle for motivation to go to the gym,” he said. “I work out five to six days a week.”
Barrett does take medicine every day to prevent rejection of his new heart. “But some of the pills I take are to offset bad things from happening, like developing high cholesterol.” He also has the man his heart came from, Will, on his mind daily. “I am extremely conscious of everything that happened so I could live,” said Barrett.
“There’s a reason Barrett is alive,” says Lisa. “God wanted him to do something.”
Or lots of “somethings”: Impact hundreds of children in his role as a teacher, influence everyone around him to be an organ donor, and step into the role of father to a little girl named Lily.