Heart transplant

Little Boy Awaiting Heart Transplant Warms Others’ Hearts As He Lights Angel Tree | MUSK

A little boy awaiting a heart transplant warmed the hearts of onlookers as he helped launch the Medical University of South Carolina’s Angel Tree effort. Luke Fossell, 3, pushed the pump to light the tree that stands just outside MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital.

It was the latest twist in a journey that began shortly after the Lexington boy was born. “When he was born he was born with a healthy heart, and when he was 10 days old he was diagnosed with enterovirus. Instead of his body attacking the virus, he attacked his heart and put it in heart failure,” said her mother, Karoline Fossell.

“So we were admitted to MUSC when he was 10 days old. He was put on an artificial respirator and we were fortunately able to get out of this situation. He went home with intravenous medication and with a PICC line for four months. A PICC line is a catheter used when a patient needs medication intravenously for an extended period of time.

“Then after that he was able to wean himself off of that and just take oral medication. And we have been able to manage it medically at home for the past two years. And then in March he declined again and was put back on milrinone,” a life-threatening heart failure drug.

Luke Fossell shakes hands with Salvation Army Captain Mike Michels. Second from left, Amy Hauser, administrator and head of children’s services at MUSC Health; Melissa Kubu, Volunteer Services Program Coordinator for MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital; David Zaas, MD, chief executive of MUSC Health-Charleston Division and clinical director of MUSC Health; and Salvation Army Captain Cathy Michels.

“He has a central catheter again, then was specifically admitted in June only for his external LVAD”, a left ventricular assist device, “on which he will remain until the transplant”.

Luke and his family have been through so much already, but they are always happy to do something to help other families. His moment in the spotlight as a tree-lighter helped bring attention to an essential part of the vacation for some families: the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.

“This year, there are over 2,000 children in need here in our community who have requested assistance through the Salvation Army,” said Melissa Kubu, Volunteer Services Program Coordinator for MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital.

“MUSC is honored to adopt nearly half of these Angels. It has been a wonderful community partnership over the past 19 years, and we will be here as long as the need arises.

Each angel is represented by a tag containing basic information, including the child’s holiday wishes, which will be hung in a key location on the MUSC campus. Employees and visitors take the tags, buy what they can, and return the gifts and tag. It’s an annual event at MUSC, but Kubu said this year will be a little different than the past two years. “We are thrilled to bring back our MUSC Angel Tree Parade. After a pandemic hiatus, we’re ready to celebrate the culmination of these adopted angels in a joyous way. The parade will take place on Friday, December 2 from noon on Ehrhardt Street. It will follow around the downtown campus and end in the Medical District Greenway.

A smiling mother holds her son Luke during the Angel Tree lighting ceremony.  A cart with IV bags stands next to it.
Karoline Fossell holds her son Luke. His cart IV is decorated for the holidays, just like the 3-year-old boy who uses it.

People can bring their gifts that day to the Greenway or earlier this week to the halls of University Hospital, Ashley River Tower or MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital.

David Zaas, MD, chief executive of MUSC Health-Charleston Division and clinical director of MUSC Health, welcomed the launch of Angel Tree. “I think in some ways, after these last few years, we’re really hungry to be together and celebrate here over the holidays after all the challenges we’ve been through.”

Luke and his family know the challenges well. But they also know something else before the holidays. “He has 1A status,” his mother said. That means he’s high on the heart transplant list, awaiting the most important gift of his young life.