A mom's fight for the beat of small human hearts
by Chance Wright
Feb 05, 2012 | 3609 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Donald Michael-Evans Thomas was born with a heart defect on Dec. 31, 2008. The next seven months was a struggle for him and his family and when he passed away on Oct. 5, 2009, his mother vowed to remember his life with the METS Heart Foundation, a charity focused on support for infants with life-threatening health problems.
Donald Michael-Evans Thomas was born with a heart defect on Dec. 31, 2008. The next seven months was a struggle for him and his family and when he passed away on Oct. 5, 2009, his mother vowed to remember his life with the METS Heart Foundation, a charity focused on support for infants with life-threatening health problems.
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Within 24 hours of delivering a beautiful baby boy, Wesley and Sarah Thomas would begin a journey that transformed their worst nightmare into a stern realization.

Donald Michael-Evans Thomas was born at 5:47 p.m., Dec. 31, 2008, at Bolivar Medical Center.

"Michael-Evans was the last child born in Bolivar County in 2008," said Sarah. "He was beautiful. He had a head full of red hair and appeared to be healthy. In fact, on his initial Apgar's he scored an eight and a nine."

Apgar is a simple and repeatable method to quickly assess the health of newborn children immediately after birth. The Apgar score ranges from zero to 10 with the higher the score the better. A score between seven and 10 is usually considered to be normal.

After the Apgar, doctors wrapped little Michael-Evans in a blanket and delivered him to his mother for a kiss before sending him down to the nursery.

"I kissed him and Wesley got to hold him for just a minute before he was taken to the nursery," Sarah said. "While nurses were placing him in an incubator my mother was able to snap two photos of him before they took him away."

While in the nursery, he was on the scale to be weighed for the first time when his heart stopped.

Sarah was taken to recovery after the delivery and when the sedation had worn off two hours later, she sensed that something was not right.

"When I regained my senses, I saw everyone standing in the hallway," Sarah recalled. "When Dr. Baugh and Dr. Tibbs came into my room I had the first realization that something was wrong with my baby."

Four hours after his birth, Michael-Evans was sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at University Medical Center in Jackson where he stayed for the next six days.

It was there that he was first diagnosed with a heart defect.

From there a transport was arranged for Michael-Evans to be sent to the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

"By the time I got to D.C. he was seven days old," said Sarah. "That day I just knew that everything was going to be O.K. It was late in the evening when we flew into D.C. and we spent the night at the hospital."

The next day, when Michael-Evans was eight days old, Sarah got to hold her baby for the first time.

"I remember that it was nothing like holding a baby," continued Sarah. "It was like holding all this stuff. That was because he was on a ventilator and had all of these lines and stuff that were surrounding him."

After numerous operations and procedures, Michael-Evans was sent home to be with his family on Feb. 22, 2009.

After he got home, he did great for a while and even began feeding but still had problems gaining weight.

"The doctors and I got concerned," said Sarah. "We had tried adding supplements and cereal to his milk to help him take in extra calories and put on weight. We tried any and everything that we could do to get him to gain weight but he just didn't."

On May 21 Michael-Evans had stopped eating entirely and was admitted back into the hospital, this time in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at UMC.

Then on June 6, the family was sent back to D.C. where his condition continued to digress.

"On the 19th of June, they called a family meeting," Sarah continued. "I knew it was going to happen because he was not doing good. During that meeting the doctors said that we needed to make a decision. Are we going to leave him on the machines and let him live another week or are we going to turn the machines off?"

Both of little Michael-Evans' lungs had collapsed. His kidneys and liver had stopped functioning and sepsis had taken over his frail body.

Sarah put her faith in God and family and decided that in order to make a decision, she needed to visit with her son.

"I went into his room and cried and prayed for God to give me a sign," said Sarah. "I looked down at my son and I could see his heart beating. That posed one question that I needed answered before I could make a decision."

When she met back with the doctor that afternoon she asked her one question.

"Does the machines make his heart beat," she asked.

Her answer was a profound no and Sarah told the doctor to leave Michael-Evans on it because he is still fighting to live.

Over the next couple of months, Michael-Evans literally fought for his life. He gained strength. He got off of life support. His organs began to function again and he was ready to return home on Sept. 9.

Pediatric heart specialists had diagnosed Michael-Evans with a rare birth defect called Vacterl Association. Seventy-five percent infants with Vacterl Association have been reported to have congenital heart disease.

On Oct. 5, 2009, Donald Michael-Evans Thomas died at home with his mother beside him. He is remembered everyday by his parents and his siblings, Samantha, who is five, and Raleigh, who is 15-months-old.

Congenital Heart Disease is the most common type of birth defect. It causes more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects. One in 100 babies born in the world have some form of the disease.

While it may be common knowledge that February is referred to as "American Heart Month," most people don't know that during the month a week is geared toward educating the public on Congenital Heart Disease.

This year that week runs from Feb. 7-14.

Over two years have passed since Michael-Evans died but Sarah continues to work to educate others on the disease that took her son and help families cope during their time of greatest need.

"I started a foundation in Michael-Evans's memory that is called METS Heart Foundation," said Sarah. "All donations go to any family who needs assistance while their baby is in the hospital. I know what a financial struggle it was for us when I had to live in Washington D.C. and I don't want another family to go through that just because their family is sick."

This year, on Valentine's Day, Dominos Pizza of Cleveland will do a raise the 'dough' fundraiser for the charity where a portion of every purchase goes to the foundation.

Sarah can be reached at 719-8288 for more information.