A New Heart for Joseph

In September 2014, our family traveled to Minnesota from our home in Panama. Arriving in Rochester, we faced a harsh climate and a language that was foreign to us. It was our third time in Rochester and this time we were here to stay. We would wait for a heart for our 10 year old son Joseph in our new home – the Ronald McDonald House.

Being away from home was daunting. But the marvelous staff and volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House offered support and a warm smile when we need it most. From day one, the House has offered us protection and so much love. And so began our wait with much patience, faith and hope.

Joseph is a very brave child. Just hearing “Mom, when will my heart be ready?” was enough to break my heart. Joseph would always look through the window as helicopters passed by and say “Mom, here comes my heart” and I would reply “Yes sweetie, your heart is on its way, just be patient.”

And so passed the days and the months – yet still no donor. Joseph’s health began to decline and in April 2015 his heart worked at only 11 percent. As parents, we promised to be with him until the very end. What would happen, would happen. We would trust in our faith – the same faith with which we traveled, that faith without limits, drawing out strength where there was none.

In June we were hit with a sad and hard blow. Joseph had his first cardiac failure and was hospitalized for a week with the diagnosis that he would need his heart immediately.

On July 2nd, one day before his birthday, we received a call at 8:25 p.m. A call that we had been asking for with everything we had, that only God could deliver to us: “Mrs. Salas, there is a heart donor for Joseph.”

Joseph’s new heart arrived on July 3rd at 3:30 a.m., his birthday.

There was great happiness for us after his transplant. Yet, at the same time, there was another family that was devastated. We prayed for strength for the donor’s family for the loss of their beloved little angel.

Our hearts are now filled with joy and hope for a better tomorrow for Joseph.

Four months later, we remain in Rochester as Joseph continues to heal. In this first year, doctors say it is important for him to stay near Mayo while he receives ongoing medical care and testing. The Ronald McDonald House’s close vicinity to Mayo Clinic and his doctors has been comforting to us as parents.

With his new heart he’s able to sing, dance, laugh, paint pictures and attend school here in Rochester. He has a lot of energy and can now enjoy all the Ronald McDonald House activities. Joseph is a kid with an awesome attitude despite his illness.

The House feels like a safe, loving home and the people we’ve met here feel like family. We will always tell Joseph that the Ronald McDonald House is his second home because it’s here, in Rochester, that he received the best gift – his heart. We are very grateful to the House for their wonderful support. I am taking this amazing experience with me for the rest of my life.

-Michelly Salas, Mother of Joseph

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