By Melissa McQueen.
When this interview was conducted, it was in Spring 2020, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kim and her son Liam are in Montreal. Kim’s son had just been interviewed for the local news station. His message for the reporter was clear, his normal was now everyone else’s normal. He says that if you are stuck at home and confined, don’t worry about it, transplant recipients do this all the time. He acted well beyond his 8 years as an advocate for his community in the interview, encouraging others to stay home because the virus was potentially dangerous to those that immune suppressed. The Morris family currently lives in the province that has been the hardest hit in Canada.
Liam has been interviewed quite often and is known throughout the province and the country. As most transplant kids, they are a celebrity in their own right.
When Kim’s son was born he looked like any other baby. One day, while at daycare, he started feeling nauseous and overall unwell. She would bring him to the clinic every time and every time they would tell her it was a stomach bug and that he needed rest and to stay hydrated. Eventually Kim got sick and tired of the repetitive diagnosis and took him to the Emergency Room of Montreal’s children’s hospital. Right away the cardiologist came to look at him and ordered an echocardiogram. He came back saying that her son was very ill and that treatment would be a long process. The team assured her they would do everything they could to save him. It was very much an overnight situation of having a healthy child to one that is near death.
For the first 6 months they thought he had myocarditis. They initially thought he had a virus. But then the diagnosis came back as Dilated Cardiomyopathy of the Left Ventricle. He also had very violent ventricular arrhythmias. He was put on almuturon right away. There were more genetic test done. Liam has three genetic mutations. LMNA gene is the first mutation. This can also be the cause of muscular dystrophy. They couldn’t stabilize him and they were losing him. Liam was quickly placed on the Berlin heart. The Berlin heart beats for the heart giving it a chance to rest. He spent a full year on the Berlin heart. They were in the hospital a total of 427 days. During this time he had 2 strokes, one pump malfunction and finally transplant in July of 2018.
Liam was in the hospital for 10 days after transplant. For the entire time he was there he told everyone that he was getting his heart for his birthday. When he was released after transplant it was on his birthday. The first thing they did after discharge, was go to a 5 star restaurant in Montreal so that he could have lobster, king crab and Rockefeller oysters and crepes suzette for dessert. The restaurant treated him to the whole nine yards. That night when Kim tucked Liam into bed she was starting to reflect to Liam and she said, “What a nightmare we have just been through.” Liam stopped her and said “Mom this isn’t a nightmare. Usually in nightmares people die. Nightmare’s don’t end well”. Her favorite souvenir was to tuck him into his own bed.
Now Liam is back to his fun loving self. It took a long time. Immediately after they were so burnt out and tired. This summer is the first time that he is feeling back to his normal self.
In the future, Liam aspires to be a surgeon and tries to get the best marks he can. He is is an avid reader. He rides his bike and plays tennis with his mother. He almost associates high blood pressure that comes with exercise with heart failure. But he is learning to overcome that with time.
Families tend to fall into one bucket or another. What doesn’t break you makes you stronger. You definitely value life more. Sometimes life can be difficult but you move beyond those challenges to live your best life.