"You will never understand the impact you have on our lives.

February 9, 2017
Topics: Heart (cardiology), Riley Kid Story

cohen blog image
Cohen Austin, Bedford, Ind.

To all of you donors who support Riley—you will never understand the impact you have on our lives.  Finding the words to use to express to you what you may do or have done is nearly impossible, for there aren’t any words for the gift of life you give. Some may call it miraculous, selfless, life-saving, generous—but these words don’t come close. 

It’s impossible to understand, unless you go through it yourself, what it means to see your child dying in your arms one day, never knowing if this could be the last night they go to bed with breath in their lungs. When we experienced life with our son, Cohen, before his heart transplant, he had no joy, no hope, no goals. He never once talked about what he wanted to do when he grew up. 

Riley Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Robert Darragh was the one who first explained to us that our 4-year-old boy had Restrictive Cardiomyopathy. Our world was turned upside down with the news: a heart transplant was our son’s only chance at life. I couldn’t breathe. Yet somehow, Dr. Darragh’s explanation of the diagnosis and treatment plan gave us peace. Dr. J.J. Parent then became our main pediatric cardiologist, and he hand drew illustrations to help us understand Cohen’s heart condition. This helped us tremendously! 

Cohen received his new heart at Riley Hospital on November 25, 2015. Jenna Yarnell was our favorite Child Life Specialist as he recovered.  She explained to Cohen’s older brother, Grady, what was happening in a beautiful way that his overprotective, scared, young mind could understand. She brought Cohen his favorite Lego characters to cheer him up, and whenever he was scared, Jenna did exceptional at making him feel safe, protected. Debbie Murphy, our Transplant Coordinator, would answer my page within a few minutes or less, even in the middle of the night! No question was too small or too silly.  

After he got his new heart, Cohen finally realized what “good” felt like. It’s like a switch went off inside of him. Now he talks about the future, he has dreams and goals in life. He aspires to be a superhero who is "brave and loyal like Captain America, smart and awesome like Iron Man, strong like the Hulk, and fast like the Flash.” 

How can words do justice to what your donations to Riley mean to families like mine? I need more than words to express to you what you have done. You have given life: the most precious gift that can be given. Thank you!  

Ashley Austin

Ashley Austin is the wife of Chris Austin, who works as a youth minister in Bedford, Ind. They are the parents of Grady (age 7), Cohen (age 5) and Ainsley (age 3). Ashley homeschools her three children and works as the Event Coordinator at their church in the Children's Ministry. She also wrote and self-published '#CohensJourney,' a book to raise awareness about and share their family's journey through Cohen's battle with arthrogryposis and his miraculous journey with restrictive cardiomyopathy.

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