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Austin Headlee, a six-month-old baby, is currently in Boston Children’s Hospital awaiting a heart transplant.
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

SOUTH HADLEY — Austin Parker Headlee, a six-month-old baby diagnosed with severe end-stage heart failure, is currently receiving treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The medical team determined that Austin urgently required a Berlin Heart Mechanical Heart device or VAD, to keep him alive while he awaits a life-saving heart transplant.

Besides the stress of their child, medical bills and additional expenses such as travel, accommodations and lost wages have begun to quickly add up.

His parents, Alina and Travis Headlee, live in South Hadley and the community and family are rallying to help the family with their financial needs.

Alina’s brother, Ben Isakovich, started a GoFundMe to support Austin and his family during this challenging time.

People can donate or view the fundraiser at www.tinyurl.com/4xy8zsfh.

At the time of publication, the fundraiser has received 462 donations and raised nearly $50,000, but continued support is needed.

Alina said her brother started the fundraising page without even telling her but she is grateful for everyone who has donated or reached out.

She added, “He just sent me the link and said, ‘I hope you don’t mind, I didn’t know how else to help’ and as soon as I saw it, I saw a bunch of donations and so much support, like people leaving notes and sharing, and love and donations coming through. I wasn’t expecting that, but it was nice for so many people praying and thinking of Austin and our family.”

Austin and his parents are currently in an “in-between” stage, according to Alina.
They are living in the ICU waiting for a heart, but Austin is more stable than when he first went to the hospital.

Alina explained that when Austin was four months old, she was concerned that something wasn’t right healthwise with her son and decided to get him checked out.

She said, “He wasn’t really acting like himself. He wasn’t really eating as well and was more tired. We didn’t realize something was terribly wrong and just wanted for him to get checked out. Everyone said he was fine, and all the assessments were good. He was still gaining weight and reaching milestones, nobody was worried, but I kept bringing him in because something didn’t feel right, and the motherly hunch took over.”

After over 10 different appointments with gastroenterologists and nutritionists, it was eventually discovered that Austin had a severe decompensated heart failure.
Decompensated heart failure means that the heart was so weak that it could not function and pump blood properly.

“Austin’s heart was not able to pump enough blood [that] the body needs. To fix that, we had a surgery almost immediately within a couple days of arrival at Boston Children’s Hospital to put in a VAD unit in,” Alina added.

The VAD unit supports the heart function by manually pumping the blood for the heart and make Austin feel better as they wait for a heart transplant.

Alina said, “Now, with this device, we can’t leave the hospital because it’s hooked up to a machine. We can’t leave until we get a heart. Now we keep going until we hopefully get that heart and kind of give him a little bit more of freedom and the childhood we were expecting to give him.

According to Alina, an estimated wait period for a heart is between six and 12 months, and she realizes that even with a new heart, other complications can arise after.

She added, “It’s a step in the right direction because this will actually give him a fighting chance. It’s still scary but we are hopeful. It’s a good thing to be getting a heart because we’ll be able to have our son out of the hospital because now with heart transplants they can usually live 20-30 years but it’s still not the end of the road even then.”

tgarnet@thereminder.com | + posts