A 13-year-old teen from Ohio who received a heart transplant passed away on his first day of school. Peyton West was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a condition that affects the left side of the heart.

Peyton underwent three open-heart surgeries before turning five years old. He lived a largely normal life, but a couple of months ago he started having problems again. The doctors told Peyton’s parents he desperately needed a heart transplant.

Peyton West was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Image credit: WCPO
Peyton West was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Image credit: WCPO

In March, he received a new heart. His family set up a Facebook page where they informed everyone about Peyton’s condition, and he seemed to be doing well. However, on Thursday, on the car ride to his first day of school, Peyton started feeling ill. His parents took him to the hospital, and he passed away moments later.

Ohio teen received heart transplant in March and seemed to be doing well

HLHS is a congenital disability that affects about 960 babies in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC explains that when babies are born without a congenital heart defect, the right side of their hearts pumps oxygen-poor blood from the heart to the lungs, while the left side pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body.

However, when a baby is born with HLHS, the left side of the heart can’t pump oxygen-rich blood to the body. HLHS develops during pregnancy and is a serious condition that often leads to heart surgeries or heart transplants.

Image credit: Child Heart Specialist
Image credit: Child Heart Specialist

Peyton’s dad, Corey West, told WCPO when his son received the heart transplant that he “was born with a half a heart,” and that Peyton was a lovable kid, that loved everyone, and everyone loved him. His health took a turn for the worse in December last year, when they decided he needed a new heart.

“They looked at it in December and said, ‘Something’s wrong. It’s really sick. It’s not good,’” Corey told WCPO at the time. “At one point the doctor mentioned he was teetering. That was the first time we heard that. That was nerve-wracking. That was scary.”

Peyton’s heart surgery on March 10 lasted 12 hours, and doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital had good hopes for him.

“The doctors are really happy with what they see number-wise… how he looks,” said West in March. “They’re very excited. We’re excited as well.”

Peyton passed away hours after taking the first-day-of-school picture

Peyton’s recovery was lengthy, and after his surgery, he was told not to go more than 9 miles from the hospital, in case he felt ill. Over the course of the next months, Peyton seemed to be doing well. The Facebook page set up by his family, “Pray for Peyton: Living with HLHS/Heart Transplant,” posted updates of his health.

The family feared for a moment that Peyton’s body had rejected the donated heart, but it was just a small hiccup on the road to his recovery. West said nothing was wrong Thursday morning. His son woke up at 6:30, put on his clothes, his red backpack and his mother snapped a picture of him. Peyton was on the way for his first day of school.

But on the way to school, Peyton started feeling sick. West said his son told him he didn’t feel “right” and that something was wrong. West and his wife stated that they still don’t know what happened to Peyton. They rushed him to Children’s Hospital, but he passed away at 10:45 a.m.

“He was perfect last night,” West told WCPO. “Perfect this morning. And then… it’s just precious. Life is precious.”

Family and friends held a prayer vigil Thursday night in Peyton’s honor, whom they describe as infectiously cheerful and courageous. Goshen Local Schools superintendent Darrel Edwards said Peyton was a joy to everyone’s path he crossed and sent his deepest sympathies to the family.

Parents consider donating their son’s organs

West said his son was an avid football fan and that his favorite sports team was FC Cincinnati. He also “inherited” his love for the team from Derek Cisneros, the boy whose heart he received in the transplant.

“Peyton thought, since Derek loved it, he would love it,” said West. “And he loved it. And he went to the FC games and soccer became a huge part of Peyton’s life.”

Peyton’s parents said they are grateful their son could receive Derek’s heart because in doing so, they got to spend 5 more months with Peyton. West said he wouldn’t refuse to donate his son’s organs to other children in need.

The family set up a shirt fundraiser on the Facebook page.

Source: WCPO