KAUFMAN — While most children’s wishes for Christmas revolve around toys, pets and games, Austin Hamrick this year, along with his parents, wanted a new heart.
On Nov. 29, 4-year-old Austin received his new heart. The surgery lasted for 11 hours. And according to his parents, Drew and Michelle, he was up and walking two days later.
Austin returned to his home in Kaufman Dec. 18 amid balloons and well-wishers to look at his new room and renovated home, which was thanks to more than 150 volunteers.
Austin was born on March 17, 2008, and almost immediately began having breathing problems. Doctors discovered he was born with half a heart.
He was only one-week-old when he had his first heart surgery. Austin had five more after that before receiving his transplant.
Austin was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome — a rare congenital heart defect — in which the left ventricle of the heart is severely underdeveloped.
He was placed on the United Network of Organ Sharing heart transplant waiting list on Dec. 13, 2011.
His parents said Austin will be on medications for the rest of his life to prevent his body from rejecting his new heart. He takes 15 pills a day.
When he entered his new home, even behind the mask on his face, one could tell Austin was amazed at the home’s transformation. He has to wear the mask because his immune system has been shut down so it will not reject his heart, according to Michelle.
Austin looked at the new refrigerator and his renovated room, which included a new bed and a row of hanging firefighter helmets donated by area firefighters. He also lingered in front of the Christmas tree and watched the train going around it.
The home received new flooring, underpinnings, a new back porch and a new side deck. Home Depot donated the refrigerator. It also received a new air conditioning system from Polk Mechanical Company.
The siding was donated by G & S Sales while the flooring was provided by Ideal Flooring. Paint was courtesy of Sherwin Williams. The house was painted by Cherry Painting Company.
The Hamricks began renovating and rebuilding the house in March. And when The Terrell Volunteer Fire Department found out about it, word went out and more people turned up to help with the project. Besides TVFD, firefighters from the Elmo and College Mound fire departments also helped out.
Drew and Michelle estimate more than 150 people have volunteered their time to make sure Austin could return to a home with purified air to help him recover.
There also have been fundraisers, including one conducted by Vonn Auctions, to help with the family’s medical expenses. Two hunting trips were donated for a raffle.
Drew estimated about $40,000 is needed.
Besides help with the house and appliances, the family also is going to have new leather furniture provided by a store. The furniture has to be leather in order to reduce the allergens in the house.
For three months he has to be in what Austin’s parents call a bubble to protect him and his new heart. After that, he will be able to go out and go to school.
“It feels very good to have him home,” Michelle said.
“We are very happy,” Drew said.
He also had high praise for the volunteers.
“If not for the volunteers, I don’t know where we would be,” Drew said.
As for Austin, looking around at his new and renovated home, he gave a big thumbs up. He was home.