Toddler Waits for New Heart as Family Struggles

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A 21-month-old boy with a rare ailment has spent 77 days at the Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx as he waits for a new heart. His mother stays with him around the clock while his father, who himself is battling cancer, is at home looking after his twin 3-year-old sisters. Pei-Sze Cheng reports. (Published Wednesday, Feb 20, 2013)

    In many ways, 21-month-old Jake Schron is just like kids his age. He loves apple juice, Mickey Mouse, and his "mama."

    But Jakey, as his family affectionately calls him, also suffers from end-stage cardiomyopathy. His heart is enlarged and does not pump blood efficiently.

    "He has trouble with his breathing, he gets fatigued very often," said his mother Shannon Schron. "It's just a matter of keeping him kind of stable until a heart comes and hope that he doesn't get worse as time goes on."

    Until he receives a transplant, doctors have a placed an IV in Jake's chest, which delivers life-saving medicine that regulates his heart.

    He's living at the Children Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx while he's hooked up to the IV, and his mother stays with him around the clock.

    While Jake is on a high priority list for a heart transplant, he has been at the hospital for 77 days and there is no telling when it will be his turn. Doctors have told the family that it all comes down to luck: they need to find a heart that is the right size and the the right match.

    But the wait for a new chance at life is draining, emotionally and financially. Schron has been living at the hospital while her husband Andrew, who himself is battling cancer, takes care of their 3-year-old twin daughters, McKenzie and Courtney.

    "I feel bad that I'm not home with them, but I think when they get older, they will realize it was something I had to do," said Shannon Schron.

    Friends and family started a campaign called "Heart 4 Jake" to raise awareness and funds for the family. The campaign has touched hundreds across the country, including former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner. At a benefit dinner on Friday night in New Dorp, Staten Island, more than 300 people bought tickets to support the family, many of them wearing shirts and bracelets that bear Jake's name.

    "I'm very humbled to know that there are so many people out there who care about my family, my wife and myself," said Andrew Schron.

    To learn more about Jake and his condition, visit heart4jake.org.

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