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Believe in miracles

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Waylen Cheatham

by Tom Chillemi

Waylen Cheatham’s first 11 months have been a fight to live another day. Even before he was born on April 20, 2016, his parents found out he had multiple heart defects and a spine defect.

With two open-heart surgeries at the University of Virginia (UVa) Hospital, one when he was just 6 days old and another when he was 6 months old, his chances of survival seemed slim. 

UVa doctors were not optimistic. Further intervention would have limited success. “Even though we took him home from the hospital we were not ready to give up,” said his mother Stephanie Cheatham of Locust Hill, who has become a “full time nurse” as she and her husband Matt care for their first child.

A heart stint that had been installed closed. His heart defects caused lung problems.

The Cheathams turned their hopes to Boston Children’s Hospital, one of the world’s premier infant hospitals, said Stephanie.

On March 4, tiny Waylen took a big trip to Boston, where one doctor remarked that he had never seen another infant like Waylen in terms of anatomy. “His case seems like a first for UVa and Boston,” said Stephanie.

During Waylen’s four days at Boston Children’s Hospital, doctors used medication and a catheter to open up his pulmonary passages. In the two weeks since, Waylen has improved greatly. He’s getting more oxygen and that makes him feel better. He’s staying awake longer. He’s also able to take formula by mouth, something he had not done in the four months since he developed “feed intolerance.” He’s up to 12 pounds now.

Both UVa and Boston hospitals will continue to monitor Waylen, who will go back to Boston in 3 months, to possibly have his tiny veins opened more.

New medications help with inflammation and Waylen will start a medicine that will address rapid cell growth in the pulmonary veins in his lungs.

“There are not many children to compare him with to give us an outcome prediction,” said Stephanie.

Miracles happen
The ordeal has been draining, said Stephanie. But sleeping in hospital chairs or on the floor next to Waylen’s bed is something a parent does. Feeding him through a feeding tube was something this 28-year-old mother learned to do. “A lot of times I just want things to be normal, but that’s just not possible now,” she said.

Fortunately, because Waylen is a medical disability, he qualifies for Medicaid to cover much of the medical costs.

Dealing with the stress, Stephanie and Matt have relied on their faith. “Waylen has changed Matt and myself a lot,” she said. “We have grown a lot stronger in a spiritual sense. In a medical sense Waylen does not make sense; we know someone must be watching over him. We have prayed to keep him healthy and get through this, and he’s still here.”

A fundraising spaghetti dinner will be held Saturday, March 25, at Harmony Grove Baptist Church (see related story, Page A1)). “We would have never thought we would have seen so much support,” said Stephanie. “Not only has Waylen helped us, he’s also helped people in the community and made people believe in miracles. He’s shown a lot of people that miracles do happen.”

posted 03.22.2017

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