Boswells overcome trials, meet donor family through EAMC
By Anna-Claire Terry
On June 30, 2015 Tucker and Amanda Boswell of Auburn welcomed a healthy son, Davis, at East Alabama Medical Center. Little did they know, they were about to go through a trial that would test their faith and change them forever.
When Davis was was five days old, Amanda noticed he was running a fever. Pediatricians sent Davis to EAMC where doctors suspected he had meningitis. “He was supposed to just stay a few days at the hospital and be fine,” Amanda said. After three days in the hospital, Davis stopped eating and doctors realized he was having heart failure issues. Nine-day-old Davis was air lifted to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham where it was determined that he was suffering from enterovirus. The virus had attacked the left side of Davis’s heart and caused it to stop functioning. Before Davis was five months old, the Boswells would almost lose him three times and he would endure three serious procedures.
According to Amanda, the first attempt to cure Davis involved ripping a hole in his heart in hopes some of the pressure would be relieved and cause the left side to work. “We left the hospital for the night and had not been gone for 30 or 45 minutes,” Amanda said. “They called and said ‘you need to get back here right now.’ The doctor came out and told us that they almost had to put him on ECMO (similar to life support.) So, we were essentially preparing to say goodbye. We had called our pastor and everything.” Doctors prepared the terrified parents for the worst. “The doctor said at that point we were doing more to Davis than for him. He said it was time to let go,” she said. Amanda wiped away tears and said “This is every parent’s worst nightmare. I’ve yet to be able to tell our story without crying. It takes us back to that place when we were preparing to plan his funeral.”
The Boswells were shocked when Davis’s doctor came to them the next day with one last option. Doctors proposed giving Davis a Berlin Heart, an experimental procedure in which Davis had a one in three chance of surviving. “We wondered at what point are we being selfish keeping him here because we want him here with us,” Amanda said. The same doctor who had lost all hope was now suggesting a device that would mechanically support Davis’s heart until he could receive a heart transplant. “He didn’t tell us this until the night after, but he and another doctor had actually been arguing about whether to even consider the Berlin. He did not think that Davis would survive, and the other doctor thought they should give it a try,” she said. “He had a vastly different attitude from the day before. It was a complete 180, and he was full of hope. We did not know what changed his mind. As it turns out, he had prayed the whole night before for God’s guidance and wisdom. What if he had not prayed about it and God had not changed his heart? Our lives would have been changed forever.” Davis barely survived the procedure. In recovery in Childrens’ Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, Davis’s vital signs started dropping and doctors and nurses ran in and ushered Tucker and Amanda out of the room. “That is when we really thought it was over,” Amanda said. “After a while, a nurse came out and said the doctor wanted to see us, which sounded weird. I started to grab a few tissues, and she told me to take the whole box… We walked to his room, and his chest was still open. It was the most terrifying thing I had ever seen. But as we turned the corner, we could see his heart beating.” The Boswells began to shed tears of joy. In another instance, Davis almost passed away again due to blood thinners.”He was bleeding everywhere and filling up the adult size containers of blood. They were hanging bags of blood just as fast as it was coming out of him,” Amanda said. She remembered one of the doctors saying “You don’t make it to transplant without ups and downs.” She referred to the whole experience as a “roller coaster ride” and said they would experience the “highest highs” and then the “lowest of lows” a few minutes later. “It was really hard to live life like that for the five months he had the Berlin heart,” she added.
With the Berlin, Davis had a device protruding from his abdomen that functioned as a heart. He was able to gain weight over the next five months and be a normal baby in a lot of ways.
Meanwhile, Jonathan and Holly Perry of Monroe, La., were saying good bye to their six-month-old son John Clarke, who suffered from abnormal vessel malformation. The Perrys insisted that their son’s heart be donated. On the same day of John Clarke’s death, his tiny heart was flown in to Alabama to be given to Davis on his five-month birthday. The transplant was successful. After three days, Davis was taken off ECMO.
During this time, a former colleague of Amanda and friend of the Perrys messaged Amanda and told her she believed Davis had received the heart of her friend’s baby. “She asked what I knew about the heart, and I told her we knew that it was a matching blood type and that it came from the same region but was far enough to have to be flown in,” Amanda said. “She sent me a message back and said everything lined up and she really thought we had John Clarke’s heart.” Amanda said she then got online to “Facebook stalk” the Perrys. “I was glad to later find out that they were doing the same thing to me so I wouldn’t be the only crazy one,” she joked. Amanda said she was greatly moved when she saw that on the night of the transplant surgery, the Perrys had held a prayer vigil for the babies who would be receiving their son’s organs. “I burst into tears,” she said.
The Boswells and Perry’s received confirmation through the Alabama Organ Center that Davis did, in fact, have John Clarke’s heart. Both families wanted to meet, but were not sure how to go about it. “We didn’t know when would be the right time. Nobody can tell you how to do something like that,” Amanda said. After friending each other on Facebook, plans to meet were set into motion. With the help of EAMC, the two families were brought together in Opelika on April 4, 2016, about four months after the night of the transplant. “We all felt like all of this was orchestrated by God. It was a divine appointment,” Amanda said. “Once you see God’s hand in this, you can’t un-see it.”
Both families spoke at an organ donation event at EAMC the day after meeting and having dinner at Ma Fia’s. Amanda recalled the first time they saw the Perry’s. “I remember being very nervous. I feel like it’s easier for us because Davis is still here. If God’s answer had been ‘no,’ I don’t know how we would have reacted. We hope we would have been like Holly and Jonathan, strong in their faith.” Both couples said it felt as if they had known each other for a long time. The couples had much in common. John Clarke’s twin is the same age as Davis, and their oldest child is the same age as the Boswell’s oldest, Hudson.
Amanda, who does not enjoy public speaking, said she prayed and asked God to make a way if she was supposed to share her story. The next day, she was asked to speak at the event. “So I said ‘Ok, Lord, I heard you loud and clear,’” she said. She added that this is not the platform she would have chosen, but God chose her family for it.
According to Amanda, getting to know The Perrys has been another blessing from God. “We were struggling with the thought of even being on the transplant list,” she said. “It’s hard to know that another baby had to die so yours could live. We prayed for them, not knowing who they were, from day one of the 115 days on the transplant list. After meeting them, we can see that they have the kind of peace and comfort that only God can give.”
The Boswells, Auburn fans, said Davis is only allowed to wear the shirt the LSU Perry family gave him that says “My heart bleeds purple and gold,” when LSU plays Alabama.
Amanda said she believes the two families will get together again, maybe even for an Auburn vs. LSU game this fall.
She also said that both couples do not believe in coincidences anymore because there story is one that can only be written by God. “He completely and totally planned it all out,” she said.