Cooper had been born with two heart defects that had gone undetected. Neither condition has many outward symptoms, so Cooper's diagnosis came as a shock to Kristen. She says, "Cooper has never been sickly. He's always had severe heart problems, but never any severe health issues."
The next day, Cooper and Kristen made the trip from their home in Pocahontas to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, where Cooper underwent surgery to remove the narrow part of his aorta. Kristen says, "I was so scared. But Cooper's care team was great, and we were home in 10 days. It was amazing."
But many challenges still lay ahead for Cooper and his mom.
At 7 months old, Cooper underwent a second surgery, this time to replace a faulty mitral valve. At 9 and 11 months, Cooper needed surgeries to remove scar tissue that had formed, blocking the flow of blood. Then, two years later, Cooper had two more procedures in an attempt to fix his heart, but his heart went into shock, and his body became overloaded with fluid, causing problems for his liver and arteries. Cooper's heart was failing.
Only a heart transplant would save Cooper’s life.
Cooper was added to the transplant list in March 2018. Four months later, on July 12, Cooper's family got "the call." A heart was available.
"I was trying not to cry but finally just started bawling," says Kristen of that momentous day. "We waited all day long. Then, at 2:00 in the morning, we heard the helicopter take off to get Cooper's new heart. The worst part was when the surgical team came and got him a couple hours later. Watching them take Cooper away was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through. But by 10:30 that morning, the surgery was over." It was a success.
Kristen is thrilled with the care Cooper has received at Arkansas Children's Hospital. She says, "ACH is amazing. The nurses are all perfect. Everybody in the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) was perfect. They made Cooper feel happy all the time because they were always happy."
The family-centered care at Arkansas Children's also made a big impression on Kristen. She says, "I'm so comfortable at ACH. I would never want to be anywhere else. We had the opportunity to move Cooper to a children's hospital out-of-state, and we said, "never!' We know ACH will do everything in their power to take care of both of our boys."
Cooper's 3-year-old brother Kason has also been treated at ACH. A couple of months after Cooper's heart transplant, Kason was admitted to the Emergency Department with a severe rash. Kristen says, "Even in the ED, they were completely amazing. We had gone to two other EDs, and they both misdiagnosed the rash." Kason couldn't see his brother until the rash cleared up, but eventually, he made a complete recovery.
Physical therapy is helping Cooper relearn to walk correctly after being in a hospital bed for four months. He will be on medication to keep his body from rejecting his heart for the rest of his life. And he will continue follow-up care at Arkansas Children's through adulthood.
Otherwise, Cooper is a vibrant, happy, energetic little boy who loves animals, cars and playing outside with his brother. But he especially likes to paint. In addition to art therapy at ACH, Cooper also received music and physical therapies, all of which he loved.
Kristen is grateful for the life-saving care only a children's hospital can provide. To her son's care team - and to all the donors who support the Arkansas Children's Heart Center - She says, "Thank you so much. There would be a lot of little lives not saved without your help. We're very, very thankful for everything Arkansas Children's Hospital has to offer."