Originally created 12/03/99

Heart transplant recipient to return home



An Augusta boy who got a heart transplant around Halloween could be home this weekend to begin decorating for Christmas.

After tests this week showed Daniel Moretz, 8, was not rejecting his new heart, the family has made plans to fly home Sunday, said his father, David.

"As Daniel said, `We'll get home in time to see Santa Claus,"' Mr. Moretz said. "For the most part he's doing good; he's doing homework right now, but he's in a great frame of mind."

Daniel was born with the major vessels of his heart reversed and the right ventricle not fully formed. He had endured 11 heart surgeries, beginning in the first days of life, but his heart was finally giving out. He flew to Boston Children's Hospital in September to await a heart transplant. Finally, Oct. 30, the new heart came. After one scary episode when he reacted to his anti-rejection medicine and his left lung collapsed, Daniel has improved steadily, leaving the hospital in time to have Thanksgiving dinner at the family's Boston apartment with his brother, Lee, and sister, Morgan.

Now it is time to truly come home to Augusta, though he will have to return twice this month for tests and probably return a couple of times in January, with checkups spaced farther apart as he improves.

The first thing on the agenda at home? "Rest," Mr. Moretz said, laughing. "Regrettably, what we've got to do when we get home is decorate for Christmas. We're about two weeks behind."

Quietly, friends of the family have raised about $30,000 to help defray the travel, living and medical expenses not covered by insurance, said Rich Lofgren, president of the Children's Organ Transplant Association, through which the money is being raised. About $25,000 has been pledged as a match by the Georgia Transplant Foundation in Atlanta, Mr. Lofgren said. The transplant association already has paid off about $18,000 in expenses that could reach as much as a half-million dollars, Mr. Lofgren said.

Back home, with Daniel's immune system still compromised from the transplant and the drugs, he will be restricted on where he can go and who he can be around. Those who do see him will find a boy who has put on 12 pounds since the transplant, filling out enough that his parents have had to buy him new clothes, Mr. Moretz said.

"When you see him, you'll be surprised," Mr. Moretz said, laughing. "When he says he's hungry, he's hungry."

There is one restriction that Daniel said he hopes he will be able to get around. Crowded areas such as church, school and the malls are off-limits until after the first of the year.

"He said, `You mean I won't be able to see Santa Claus at the mall?"' Mr. Moretz said. "I'm going to try the mall and see if I can get an early appearance."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213.