Contributed by: Stephanie Anderson
Meet the Keetons, a family of 9, living among three households, in two states, on one income. Although living together under one roof, with her husband, Adam, and seven children, (ages 7 years old and younger,) is something wife and mother Julie Keeton yearns for every day, at the top of her wish list, is a new heart and a pair of lungs for her 6 year-old son Weston.
Born with aortic and mitral stenosis and an abnormal left ventricle, Weston underwent multiple surgeries during his first 7 months of life. After a rough beginning, Julie says, the family was able to spend three “great, easy years back in our beautiful East Tennessee mountain home that Weston loves.” Sadly, when Weston was three years old he began having frequent, terrifying episodes, during which he would turn blue and seem to have seizures. At that time, Weston was assessed and diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension; he was soon transferred to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP,) where he underwent a complex open heart surgery.
“We all hoped so hard” Julie said, “that the open heart surgery would resolve the pulmonary hypertension. That this would be the end to all of his heart's struggles and he could return to the life of a rambunctious little boy who loves to run barefoot in the grass, play in the mud, and help his dad around the house. Unfortunately,” Julie added, “it did not.”
After suffering through ten more months of continued terrifying episodes of pulmonary hypertensive crisis, Weston returned to CHOP, where he was placed on the waiting list to receive a heart and double lung transplant.
Weston and Julie have been living and waiting in Philadelphia nearly 2 years, Weston’s older brother, Easton and youngest sister, Ellie, also stay with them. Adam and the Keeton’s other four children live in Tennessee, where they stay so Adam can continue working and keep the family’s medical insurance. Weston misses his dad and siblings dreadfully” Julie says, “They miss him mightily, too. And I miss my large family, all in one place.”
In spite of everything, Julie says, “Weston has the best attitude. You can't spend time around him and not come away utterly blessed. “Julie describes her son as bubbly, with a contagious personality and smile. Weston, Julie says, is “all boy and full of life. You would never know he was sick.”
An average day for Weston involves taking nearly 60 pills, participating in physical therapy and exercise rehab, and going to clinic and school. In the afternoons, Weston is able to attend Cub Scouts, play at the park, and Skype with his family. Some weekends, Adam and the rest of the Keeton family are able to drive to Philadelphia to visit.
Julie says that despite their circumstances, God has given the family peace and used their situation to bring glory and honor to His name. “So many people have told us that reading our story has brought them to Christ,” Julie said. “We pray daily for God's will to be done and also for the donor family if a transplant is what needs to take place. The long wait time for transplant has taught us humility, perseverance, kindness, and patience.”