IOWA CITY — Kameron Brown is hoping to be home by Halloween so he can hand out candy.
It’s a goal shared by his family as they anxiously monitor Brown’s recovery from heart transplant surgery at the University Iowa Children’s Hospital on Sept. 14, nearly 18 months after the 11-year-old from Orion, Illinois, was placed on the transplant waiting list.
“We are hoping that we’ll be able to leave the hospital at the end of the month,” said Brown’s grandmother Nancy Jordan, 49, of Moline, Illinois.
Brown’s story captured headlines last month when he served as the ring bearer at the wedding of his mother Nikole (Carey) Kommer, 27, to Brandon Kommer, 28, during a ceremony in the chapel at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.
The location of the marriage ceremony was chosen not only because Kameron is a patient there, but because both his mother and his aunt, Tarryn Erickson, 30, had heart transplant surgeries at the same hospital — Nikole Kommer’s coming at age 12 and Erickson’s a few years later when she was age 21.
Mere days after the wedding, the family received the news they had been waiting to hear for more than a year — there was a heart for Kameron.
“We are thinking of and praying for a special family tonight,” Jordan wrote in a post on the Facebook page “A Heart for Kameron,” where family members post updates on Kameron’s condition. “May God grant them peace and comfort in their time of great loss. We thank them for their selfless and kind gift of a second chance at life for our amazing Kameron.”
The Facebook group is closed, but those wishing to follow Kameron’s story may request to be added. The page has more than 1,800 followers.
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Kameron’s recovery hasn’t been without bumps in the road. On Monday, he underwent a procedure to reposition his peritoneal dialysis catheter, Jordan said. After the surgery, Jordan posted on the Facebook that if the catheter works, Kameron may be able to return home as soon as he can walk on his own.
“He is really hoping to be home in time to pass out Halloween candy,” she wrote, adding her grandson “still is fighting hard to recover from his heart transplant.”
One of the biggest hurdles Kameron is working to overcome is the pain in his feet.
“The pain is so severe that it’s making it really hard for him to be able to walk,” Jordan wrote in a Facebook post.
Kameron suffered from a degenerative heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. It involves decreased ability for the heart to pump blood because of an enlarged or weakened left ventricle. It’s the same disease that afflicted his mother and aunt.
Kameron’s physician is Dr. Erik Edens, director of pediatric heart transplant at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital and the same doctor who cared for Nikole Kommer 15 years ago.
Dr. Edens said while the surgery was challenging, the procedure went without a hitch and his new heart is working very well.
“He is making steady progress in his recovery and his rehabilitation,” Dr. Edens said. “Almost every day he seems to be at least a little bit better. Considering how ill he was before his transplant, he is actually progressing better than we expected.”
Jordan has said each day is bringing new life to Kameron, “even though right now he isn’t really able to see it.”
The past weeks have been humbling, she said.
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“I have just been to Kameron’s room ...,” Jordan wrote in a Sept. 15 Facebook post. “As he fell asleep, I rubbed his head and watched through the bandages as his perfect new heart beat strongly in his chest. It fully hit me that I was witnessing a miracle, an incredible gift of love that can never be repaid.
“For the third time in my life I was humbled in a way that I’ll never be able to put into words. The last 24 hours has been a whirlwind and the experience has taken my breath away — again.”