Goshen teen active with new heart
Posted: 04/08/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Marlys Weaver-Stoesz
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It’s their usual routine for Easter Sunday, but this year has extra significance.
This Easter was the first Sunday their son, Barrett Younghans, was able to join them at Trinity Lutheran Church since undergoing a heart transplant in mid-February.
Barrett Younghans, 19, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, which literally means “heart muscle disease,” more than two years ago. Cardiomyopathy weakens the heart’s pumping function and can cause arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death. His name joined the heart transplant list Jan. 1, 2010.
Younghans continued his education at Goshen High School, graduating in 2011. Last fall, he began pursuing a degree in secondary education history at Valparaiso University. His first year of college was interrupted in September, when his heart began to fail. He was at Indiana University Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis through late September and most of October, where doctors put in a ventricular assist device (VAD) to take over some of the work of Younghans’ heart. He was also moved up to the top of the donor list.
Younghans moved back to his parents’ home in Goshen, enrolling in a biology class at Goshen College to earn some college credit while away from Valparaiso.
Early in the morning on Sunday, Feb. 12, the Younghans family received a call from IU Methodist Hospital that a heart was available for transplant. The family was on the road toward Indianapolis by 6 a.m. and Younghans received a new heart that evening.
About two weeks later, Younghans returned to Goshen. He said Thursday that life is now more like it was before he was even diagnosed with cardiomyopathy.
Eight weeks after undergoing the heart transplant, Barrett Younghans is running, biking, playing basketball and looking forward to swimming once the weather is warm enough.
“I’m basically doing what I want,” he said.
A few weeks ago, Younghans called his father out of a meeting to show him how he could run a few hundred yards.
“I hadn’t seen him run since he was 17,” Barry Younghans said.
Barrett is excited to take advantage of the summer weather by playing sports and being outside and said his life is now “a lot more normal.”
His father said, though, that while he and Lisa can more often sleep soundly through the night now, “I don’t know if it’s ever going to be normal in the true sense of the word.”
“Not a day goes by that we don’t think about it,” the elder Younghans said.
He added that worries they had before Barrett’s surgery are now replaced with different anxieties. “Every trip to Indy has it’s own set of concerns,” he said.
Since returning from Barrett’s surgery, the Younghans family has returned to Indianapolis for a check-up once a week, but after a doctor’s visit last Tuesday, the schedule for check-ups is being reduced to one visit every three weeks. So far, Barrett’s body has shown no signs of rejection of his new heart. Barry Younghans noted that it’s incredibly rare for a transplant patient to never experience any rejection, which is the reason for the regular doctor visits.
“It’s been a life changing event, no question,’ Barry Younghans said looking over the past several months.
Barrett is planning to finish his class at Goshen College this Spring, then returning to Valporaiso University in the fall to continue his education.