Our beautiful son Dalton was born Feb. 24, 1997.
We thought he was a normal, healthy baby, but our nightmare began the night we came home from the hospital when Dalton began to make grunting and wheezing noises in his crib.
He was clearly having trouble breathing.
So when he was just three days old, he was life-flighted to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where we learned he was born with six congenital heart defects including a problem with his right ventricle, aorta and two holes in his heart.
At 8 days old, he had his first open heart surgery to start the process of re-plumbing the heart. Dalton ended up having four open heart surgeries by the time he was 5.
He also endured numerous heart caths, received a pacemaker and lost most of the function in his left lung due to blood clots. Because of the blood clots, he was placed on a very high dosage of a blood thinner called Coumadin.
Though I know him as a resilient kid, there was a lot Dalton wasn't allowed to do as a child. He couldn't play Little League (after coach pitch) because it was too dangerous to play any contact sports because of the blood thinners.
The many temporary fixes to the heart kept Dalton stable until about fifth grade, age 11. By then he had developed a condition called Protein Losing Enteropathy - basically his heart was creating a condition in the protein in his blood that was causing him to starve so that he had a distended belly like an Ethiopian baby.
The condition was fought with steroids for three and a half years, and then it became apparent that the only successful longterm solution would be a heart transplant.
We were so scared. You hear stories of people waiting so long for organs and stories of the organs never coming.
The transplant evaluation took several weeks to set up. Various tests would determine whether Dalton would be eligible to be placed on the heart transplant list.
After almost a month of waiting, on May 8, 2012, we received the call that he was approved and would be going on the list that day. We were ready to wait as long as we needed for that perfect heart.
We prayed that Dalton remained healthy enough until that heart came. He was one of the lucky ones and only waited ten days for his new heart.
Today, he is living proof of the difference a new heart can make. At first it was just the little things like his belly getting smaller.
Soon he was able to run without being in pain. And he can ride his bike all day: No longer is he wiped out and lethargic.
Though Dalton is still small for his age, he has been steadily gaining wait. But perhaps the most exciting thing of all for him is this year he got his driver's permit, and he didn't hesitate to check the box about being an organ donor.
Our family are organ donation advocates, of course, and though Dalton can't yet vote, I know he's excited about new legislation in Harrisburg that would help more organs become available for transplant.
House Bill 30 - also called The Donate Life PA Act - will expand public education about organ donation, which is the cornerstone of a successful state donor designation campaign.
It will increase public education through training of medical, osteopathic and nursing school students and instruction of high school and college students.
Right now more than 8,400 people in Pennsylvania are on the organ waiting list, and that number has been rising. Nationally, the list has now exceeded 119,000.
Every nine days someone in Pennsylvania dies waiting for an organ - that's almost 500 people each year. We are incredibly grateful our son wasn't a part of that statistic. And we owe everything to the parents of the 10-year-old who gave their child's heart so that our son could live.
It sounds so cliche to say it, but don't take your organs to heaven; heaven knows we need them here.
Our family is living proof that someone's precious gift of an organ saved Dalton's life and has given him another chance to be a kid.
Please reach out to our Blair County legislators and urge them to support House Bill 30, the Donate Life PA Act.
Dawn and Scott Igoe are parents to heart-recipient Dalton Igoe.