The Norman Transcript

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November 28, 2012

Five-year-old needs second heart transplant

NORMAN — A 5-year-old Lexington resident is in need of a new heart. His second one.

Jhett Skaggs, the son of Bryan and Audra Skaggs, was born with a heart condition that caused him to need a heart transplant at 10 months.

After receiving his transplant, Jhett eventually has grown into a normal 5-year-old boy who, as his mother, Audra Skaggs, said, “has been through a lifetime of surgeries that most adults never face.”

But Jhett’s story doesn’t end there. This is where it begins again.

After having his new heart for about five years, he has developed transplant coronary artery disease, which — according to several online sources — is a common immunologic phenomenon often necessitating a repeat transplant. Audra Skaggs said this is a disease process not related to heart transplant rejection.

So Jhett and his dad, Brian Skaggs, have headed to Houston’s Texas Children’s Hospital, where Jhett has been placed on a waiting list for a new heart — a process requiring a great deal of paperwork, labs and insurance approval among other necessities, Audra Skaggs said.

She said that before his first transplant, Jhett was so close to death, he had to stay in the hospital while waiting for a new heart. This time, Brian and Jhett are staying in a house given to them by a family friend, since transplant candidates must stay within an hour of the hospital.

Audra Skaggs is a teacher in Lexington and must stay home during the week and visit on weekends when she’s able.

She said when the call arrives that a new heart for Jhett has become available, she’ll be able to travel to Houston and be with her son for the surgery.

When asked how Jhett is taking all of this, Audra said, “He understands where his heart came from the first time and that his heart is sick again and that he’s going to have to have surgery again. He knows another child will have to pass in order for him to get the heart.”

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