Maren Foster and Liam Sprague both had organ transplants on February 25th, 2014 at Cincinnati Children’s. Their organ donor was a young boy named Fuentez, who died – along with both of his parents and three siblings – in a house fire.
This third part of their story is all about Maren and Liam as they’re growing, and the wonderful things that have happened for each of their families in the 18 months since their transplants. Read the first two posts in this story: Part I here and Part II here.
Maren turned 2 years old in June and Liam is five-and-a-half. Maren’s dad, Travis, and Liam’s mom, Carolynn, share how special these months have been.
Travis Foster: Our daughter is a different baby. It was like bringing her home for the first time when we returned home from her transplant. She had a few complications shortly after the transplant, but is now doing great. My wife and I are doing OK. It was described to us as a ‘roller coaster ride’ and that’s exactly how it’s been. Things have calmed down a bit. We only have to have Maren’s blood work done once a week now and she has come off a lot of her medicines. We are down to giving medicine twice a day instead of five times a day. We still get very anxious waiting for the blood tests to come back. We also are only going to Cincinnati once a month for checkups. We still worry and I guess we will probably always worry.
Carolynn Sprague: We had a welcome home party, and to our surprise, a few members of Liam’s organ donor’s family were able to attend. We met Fuentez’s uncle David, a few cousins and his abuela (grandmother), who listened to Fuentes’ heart beat in my son. It was beautiful. We exchanged stories and photos and released balloons for Liam’s organ donor. I hugged and thanked his family more times that I can count. The first time Liam met Fuentez’s abuela, I can’t explain it, but it was as if he knew who she was. Liam’s speech hasn’t fully returned so he can’t tell me what he thinks or feels, but he spoke volumes with his eyes and smile. He lit up when he saw her and it brought tears to her eyes. We are so fortunate that we live in the same city as our donor’s family. They follow Liam’s progress on Facebook. We all keep in contact. We have an unbreakable bond with this family. Their gift of life is the greatest gift of all. Not only did Liam receive the perfect heart, he also gained a ?familia.
Travis Foster: Because of Maren’s liver transplant she was able to have and enjoy her first birthday (and then her second!) with friends and family; some family members had never met her before her first birthday. She began walking in December and has finally registered on the growth chart for her weight and height. Maren loves her big brother Jackson. No one can make her laugh like Jackson and he loves his sister just as much. Maren is all-girl, and loves playing in her play kitchen with all her play jewelry on. Because of her liver transplant and the wonderful gift of life from the Guerra family, my family and I are able to enjoy our daughter to the fullest.
Carolynn Sprague: The stroke took so much from Liam and from us, but missing his voice is the hardest part. The silence can be deafening. My hope is that Liam continues to learn and regain expressive language. I’d give anything to hear what he thinks and feels again. I hope that he really knows what we are telling him. I hope one day he will speak again and ask any questions he may have. I will always be honest with him about what has happened. His heart donor, Fuentez Guerra, and his family are now our familia. They will always be a part of our life and Liam’s. I hope one day that Liam can tell us all his version of his journey.
Organ Donors Save Lives
Travis Foster: I remember reading in the National Geographic Proof story about The Waiting List that the majority of people believe that organ donation is the right thing to do, but the majority of those people are not registered as organ donors. I was one of those people. I never thought about organ donation. I was not an organ donor until it affected me personally, until my daughter Maren was diagnosed with biliary atresia and needed a liver transplant. I feel awful about not being signed up before. I never thought about it, that if something happened to me, I would be able to help save someone else’s life by being an organ donor. On February 25, 2014 Fuentez Guerra and his family saved my daughter’s life. My wife Ellen and I will forever be grateful that Maren was given a chance to grow up. We cannot wait until she is old enough so we can explain what a lucky little girl she is because of the amazing Guerra family hundreds of miles away. Looking back I wish I would have known how many lives one organ donor can save – and not just the recipient but family and friends too. I wish I would have known how many people were waiting for an organ transplant. I wish I would have known more about organ donation and this is why I share Maren’s story every chance I get, because I know there are people out there like I was, uneducated about organ donation. I hope that by sharing #marenstory, we will inspire more people educate themselves about organ donation.
Carolynn Sprague: Liam received his perfect heart on February 25, 2014. Some people are not lucky enough to live until the organ they need becomes available. We are one of the lucky families. I hope Liam’s story encourages more people to think about organ donation. I hope you say yes and your family says yes. If more people said yes, together we could ?#?endthewaitinglist.
Today is a great day to learn about organ donation Donate Life America has all of the information you need and a “Register Now” button if you are ready to become a donor. Maren and Liam are both growing and thriving because Fuentez Guerra’s family said “yes” during an unimaginable time. These families will be forever connected by that fateful decision.