Picture this: You live on a beautiful island, where you are personally and professionally well established. Then your child becomes desperately ill, and no hospital there offers the surgery that can save him. What do you do?
The Martinez family of Puerto Rico uprooted their lives and traveled more than 1,800 miles to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health so their 9-year-old son Adriel could undergo a heart transplant. And to best support his recovery, they are making Indiana their new home.
Adriel’s diagnosis of cardiomyopathy last summer meant he might need a new heart. No Puerto Rican hospital offers a pediatric transplant program, so Adriel’s father Adrian Martinez launched a search. Relatives in Goshen, Ind., including a physician uncle who completed his residency with Indiana University Health, recommended Riley Hospital, the only hospital in Indiana that offers pediatric heart transplants. Adriel and his mother Rosenid Colón arrived by air ambulance in early November 2015.
Under the care of pediatric cardiologists Michael Johansen, D.O., and John Parent, M.D., Adriel underwent a thorough evaluation before he was put on a transplant list. “A transplant is a life-changing event for the families,” explains Transplant Coordinator Debbie Murphy, R.N. “We want to be sure we have maximized other treatment options.”
Although Rosenid and Adrian are both in other relationships now, they are raising Adriel together. Riley social workers coordinated their separate insurance plans to put financial safety nets in place, says Social Worker David Shelton, LCSW, whose team receives significant support from donors through Riley Children’s Foundation. “Even though Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and Adrian, Rosenid and Adriel are U.S. citizens, we expected some hiccups along the way,” says Shelton.
Cardiac surgeon Mark Turrentine, M.D., performed Adriel’s heart transplant on January 18. Rosenid calls her son’s care and the support she received at Riley "exceptional,” and Adrian agrees: “Every single person played a very important role.”
Riley’s protocol requires Rosenid and Adriel to remain in Indiana for a year following transplant. Riley social workers helped her find a place to live after her extended stay at the Ronald McDonald House. With their ongoing help she established state residency. Adrian has found a job and plans to move to Indianapolis as well; in the meantime, he Skypes in to Adriel’s medical appointments.
Adriel today is an active 10-year-old boy who keeps on top of his fourth-grade schoolwork and looks forward to getting back to his favorite sports, soccer and basketball. And on his behalf, his parents are becoming Hoosiers. Says Murphy: “This family is to be greatly admired, in that they held fast to the commitment they made when they came here.”