Liverpool boy's wait for a heart

A Liverpool family experiences a miraculous change of heart as it cares for six adopted children with special needs.

At 16 years old, Renee Curkendall told her mother that she wanted to have six children with special needs when she grew up. When she met her husband, Peter, she warned him not to ask her out unless he was up for the challenge.

Now in their mid-forties, Renee and Peter have six children between the ages of 5 and 21, four adopted and two biological. All but one has significant physical and developmental impairments, ranging from cerebral palsy to bipolar disorder. Renee says that each child’s story draws her to them and motivates her to provide them with a strong loving home.

Photo: Alyssa Greenberg

“Mom! Can I put in the movie please? Please!” said Trayvon Curkendall, as he anxiously waited for his mother to help him put in a DVD.

After she inserted the disc, Trayvon stood directly in front of the flat screen, blocking everyone from viewing the movie—but no one seemed to care or notice.

The movie wasn’t the typical Disney movie or an action-packed car race flick. The screen fades in from black to a young girl no older than 13 years old. She begins talking about her recent heart transplant.

Trayvon swayed back and forth with a wide smile across his face. He turned around to his mom and said, “That’s going to be me one day!”

Renee smiled and responded, “Yes honey, it will.”

At that time, Trayvon had no idea how much longer he would remain on the waiting list for a heart transplant and be given the hope of a new life.

"I have to admit we have more on our plate than I anticipated… but I wouldn't trade it for any other life," Curkendall said.

Renee and Peter adopted Trayvon from Middletown, N.Y. when he was two and a half years old. The couple knew about Trayvon's heart condition when they adopted him, but the doctors assured them that he would have completed all of the necessary open-heart surgeries by the time they adopted him.

Six short months after the adoption, however, Trayvon needed emergency open-heart surgery and the doctors needed to redo his third corrective surgery.

“He did great until he was six and he developed a severe arrhythmia that required several shocks in the ICU [Intensive Care Unit]," Curkendall recalled. “He did great again until nine when the same thing happened, but this time he came very close to dying and his heart weakened severely.”

Trayvon was listed in September 2010 at the lowest possible level. He then developed another arrhythmia and what was a stable heart suddenly needed oxygen full time and IV meds in order to keep it beating.

The doctors told the Curkendalls the chances of Trayvon’s heart surviving in the long term were ill-fated. All of his other organs were suffering from the lack of good blood flow.

In September 2011, his status was elevated to the highest level. The first call for a new heart came on the night of his 13th birthday, but the Curkendalls could not accept the heart because Trayvon was in the ICU with an infection.

“The next call came the night before Valentine’s Day,” Curkendall said. “That is the heart beating beautifully in his chest today. Once he was discharged, he quickly recovered and has been a literal walking miracle ever since."

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