Family asks community for help with heart transplant for 15-year-old

KARIN DAVIS-THOMPSON, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — As another school year ends for students in Pinellas County, summer vacation will be in full swing. Some students will begin preparing for college, others will attend various summer camps, and some will work on their volunteer hours or a summer job. But for Ian Cooper, summers won’t be filled with camps or activities with friends, but doctors’ visits, constant medication and a pacemaker.

Ian, 15, is waiting for a heart transplant and must focus all of his energy on staying healthy while he waits.

His parents, Leon and Jennifer Cooper said they first noticed something was wrong when Ian was an infant. He would frequently cry out for no apparent reason, and nothing they would do seemed to soothe him. He almost always had a cough or fever, but doctors said it was just a virus.

But then, during a wellness visit, the doctor took a listen to his heart and thought something sounded off.

“He was diagnosed with Obstructive Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and Wolff Parkinson’s White (WPW) at 10 months old,” Jennifer Cooper said.

The condition means the heart muscle can become thick, making it hard for it to pump blood.

WPW is a fairly rare condition where an additional electrical pathway between the upper and lower chambers of the heart causes a rapid heartbeat.

Since the diagnoses, Ian has had multiple open heart surgeries, and his heart depends on a defibrillator to beat properly. He also has a tunneled peripherally inserted central venous catheter line to deliver medication directly to his heart.

A year ago, he was placed on the heart transplant list, and his family is doing all they can to have faith that he will receive the transplant he needs to live a full life.

“Truthfully, all of it has been hard,” said his mom. “But we have our faith, family and friends that help greatly.”

She said their church, Genesis Worship Center, and extended family and friends are always there when she needs to talk, share some news or just pray.

The Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) is working with Ian to tell his story and raise funds for the medical bills his family must endure and the funds that will be necessary once a donor is found.

COTA was founded in 1986 to provide financial assistance to transplant families with children or young adults in need of a life-saving organ, bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Families can work with COTA for a lifetime for financial assistance with transplant-related expenses.

Along with paying for medications each month, Ian’s family must travel for appointments. His immunologist and transplant team are located at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

For Ian’s part, he said it can be tough, but he is getting through it.

“It’s been difficult because I can’t go to school, hang out with my friends or just run,” Ian admitted.

And although he has to stay inside and attend school online to try and ward off any illnesses, he does have friends to talk to and keep his spirits up. Ian also finds escape in watching Anime, listening to music, and “I have faith in God,” he proclaimed.

For more information on Ian’s story or to donate to the family to assist with transplant-related expenses, visit www.COTAforTeamIanC.com.

To reach Karin Davis-Thompson, email kdavis-thompson@theweeklychallenger.com

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