IOWA CITY — Kameron Brown finally got his heart.
After nearly 18 months on a waiting list, doctors at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital performed heart transplant surgery Wednesday on Kameron, an 11-year-old patient from Orion, Illinois, who served as the ring bearer last week during his mother’s wedding, held in the chapel at the hospital.
The Gazette was there to witness the marriage ceremony of Nikole and Brandon Kommer, who said they had planned a traditional wedding in the future, but decided to wed at the hospital on Saturday at the urging of Kameron.
During Saturday’s festivities, Dr. Erik Edens, director of pediatric heart transplant at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, said Kameron was “high” on the waiting list and could receive a heart any day.
Any day came Wednesday.
Family members said via social media the surgery was scheduled to begin around 5 a.m. and wrapped up sometime before 5 p.m.
“We are thinking of and praying for a special family tonight,” Nancy Jordan, Kameron’s grandmother, wrote in a post on the “A Heart for Kameron” Facebook page. “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!”
Other family members could not be directly reached for comment on Wednesday, but a hospital spokeswomen directed The Gazette to the Facebook page, where hundreds of messages of love and support came in throughout the day as updates were posted.
Jordan, 49, of Moline, Illinois, said doctors called Kameron’s new heart “superb” and “the perfect size for him.”
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Kameron suffers from dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that reduces his heart’s ability to pump blood. He has been on the transplant waiting list since April 2015 and a patient at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital since May.
His family knows all too well what he’s gone through.
Nikole Kommer, 27, of Orion, is a former patient at the UI Children’s Hospital. In fact, Dr. Edens was her doctor 15 years ago when, at the age of 12, she received a heart transplant. Five years later, her sister, Tarryn Erickson, 30, of Port Byron, Illinois, received a new heart at age 21. Both Nikole and Tarryn also suffer from dilated cardiomyopathy.
Dr. Edens said this is the first time the UI hospital has ever had a mother-son transplant combination. He’s certain the condition they suffer from is genetic, but said researchers have not yet found the exact source on the genetic code.
During Wednesday’s surgery, Jordan took a few opportunities to update the more than 1,700 members following the Facebook page. It is a closed group that you must ask to join.
Around 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jordan posted the first update: “Dr. Edens just came in and said all is going well,” she wrote. “The heart is perfect and they are sewing it in right now. No news yet on when they will be done. Doc says ‘Don’t worry.’ Ha ha! Good one!
The next update came around 1 p.m.: “Kameron’s new heart is connected and beating nicely! He is having a few PVCs (premature ventricular contractions) but that’s completely expected and doesn’t seem to concern the docs. Your prayers and well wishes are so comforting to read as we wait. Thanks so much!”
The final update came shortly before 5 p.m.: We just received an update from Dr. Gruber, Kameron’s transplant surgeon. His surgery is finished and went really well overall. They did put him back on bypass twice. Once to correct abnormal rhythm and once to stop some bleeding. ... Kameron will remain sedated and intubated until they feel it’s safe to close his chest which they hope to do on Friday. ... The next few days things will have some ups and downs so please continue to pray with us.”
Nikole and Brandon Kommer, who were engaged in February, said as soon as Kameron is healthy enough, they plan to hold a celebration back home.
“Kameron wants pool party,” Brandon Kommer said.