Teen waits for heart transplant to save his life, community coming together to help

By: Alana Greenfogel Email
By: Alana Greenfogel Email

When the Younghans from Goshen were on vacation in Disney World, they noticed their 17-year-old son Barrett was having a hard time breathing in his sleep. A worried mom, Lisa Younghans, insisted on taking Barrett to the doctor for what they thought was asthma. But it turns out Barrett has a serious heart condition and needs a heart transplant in order to survive.

"It's scary to know he has to do it, but you know, we know what the alternative is. If he doesn't get one, he's going to die," shares Barrett’s dad, Barry Younghans.

The Younghans anxiously wait for the phone call that will change their lives and save their son.

"It's a real difficult thing because I also realize that our greatest joy comes at someone else's expense," shares Lisa Younghans, Barrett’s mom.

While waiting for that call, Barrett says the beat must go on. While he can’t play sports, he’s still on the Goshen High School baseball and swim teams to cheer on his teammates.

"I feel like I'm just like everybody else still, just not able to do some things I want to," says Barrett.

Barrett would love to pick up the baseball bat or jump in the pool, but doctors’ orders strictly prohibit that. He’s dealing with a condition called cardiomyopathy, which basically means he has an enlarged heart. While most of us pump 55-75% of the blood in our hearts, Barrett’s dad explains his son’s heart only pumps 15-17%. The Younghans say Barrett’s condition was caused by a virus, could be a simple as a common cold, but they don’t know when or why. Doctors say it’s a miracle Barrett is able to function as well as he does.

"Most kids that have what Barrett has, you don't find out about it,” Barrett’s mom, Lisa, explains. “Most kids die before you find this out because it's not something you hear in a physical."

The week after Barrett’s diagnoses, his parents say they learned of two teenagers with the same illness who died while playing sports.

When an organization called the Parrot Heads learned about Barrett, they decided to hold a fundraiser to help the Younghans pay for the overwhelming medical expenses. Over the last 5 ½ years, Parrot Heads in Michiana have raised $70,000 and spent 4,000 hours helping people in need.

"You want him to be well. You want him to live a happy life and to grow up," shares Carey Bert, who is the president of Parrot Heads in Michiana.

Parrot Heads will host a pancake breakfast Saturday April 17th from 8 a.m.-10 a.m. at Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill on U.S. 33 between Elkhart and Goshen. Tickets are $7.

"He truly is my hero,” says Barrett’s mom, Lisa. “He has never complained. He told us in the hospital, 'If this had to happen to somebody, I'm glad it happened to me and not my sisters or my friends. Because I can deal with this and I can do this.' And he has."

As Barrett waits for the phone to ring with news of a match, he does what most teens do. Barrett loves hanging out with his friends and family and you’ll probably find him on the couch watching hockey. One of the first things Barrett asked the doctor was how long after the transplant does he have to wait until he can do back to Disney World.

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