ROCHESTER, Minn. — Father’s Day this weekend takes on a whole new meaning for two dads in Rochester who nearly lost their son shortly after he was born.
Shlomo, Matti, and big sister Emily Kalman Hillel came to Barron, Wisconsin, all the way from Israel to adopt their son, Tom.
However, they’ve been in Rochester at the Mayo Clinic ICU ever since Tom was born in November, waiting for a miracle.
“They noticed that something was not working well. He was not eating, he was not alert,” Shlomo said.
Baby Tom was flown by air ambulance to Mayo Clinic in Rochester due to complex congenital heart disease.
“We understood that something bad happened. We didn’t understand what and how bad is the situation,” Shlomo said.
Doctors at Mayo Clinic discovered Tom’s aortic valve was not pumping blood to his head and the rest of this body properly, and there was also a leak in another micro valve. Doctors determined that Tom needed a heart transplant.
“It’s an existing fear, like life and death,” Matti said.
For five months, Tom was connected to a machine called ECMO, which helped his heart pump blood, keeping him alive.
But ECMO was extremely hard on the newborn’s body, and the risks were high.
“[He was] intubated and sedated, most of the time with an open chest,” Shlomo said.
Luck struck just in time, as an infant donor in the Midwest became available on Easter and Passover Sunday.
“Families that donate are noble people with large hearts,” Matti said.
This donor was also just time for Father’s Day, and the month that Shlomo and Matti celebrate 22 years of love together.
“[Our] first father’s day, then it’s the pride month, so it’s all together,” Shlomo said. “It’s the pride to have our family.”
During Tom’s seven months at Mayo, the doctors and nurses named him “Super Tom” for overcoming so much.
They sent him off with his very own tiny cape, signed by all the staff who helped him during his fight and recovery.
The Kalman Hillel family will be in Minnesota for one more year of transplant recovery, staying close to Mayo Clinic. Then the whole family will head back to Israel, but a piece of home will forever be here, where a miracle happened.
“I think this is my new religion, and Rochester is my new temple,” Shlomo said.
This story proves how important and life-saving organ donors can be. To register to become an organ donor, click here.