Saturday, September 27, 2003

Workers hustle, boy gets heart

Rapid reaction ensures success of transplant

The Associated Press

ASHLAND, Ohio - Nine-year-old Shawn Federer always wanted to be part of a Little League baseball team, a dream put on hold because of heart problems he's had since birth.

But thanks to another team - a group of Ohio rescue and hospital workers - the boy will get his chance to run the bases this spring.

A heart became available June 1 at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh for Shawn, who was born with several holes in his heart. But the boy was at an amusement park with his mother, whose two cell phones weren't working.

Determined to get Shawn 158 miles to Pittsburgh before the heart was given to another patient within an hour, the rescue team worked feverishly to find the boy.

On Saturday, the crew will be honored at a ceremony in Ashland, about 54 miles southwest of Cleveland.

"I didn't know that there were so many people out there that really cared," Shawn's mother, Amanda Federer, said Friday.

Her son had the first of three open-heart operations when he was 2 years old. Over time, his heart weakened and he was hospitalized several more times for operations to repair valves and other problems.

Last spring, doctors said he needed a transplant to survive.

Sixty-two days later, MedFlight dispatcher Patti Slaughter got a call that the heart was waiting for the boy. She was given an hour deadline by Pittsburgh doctors trying to preserve the organ.

They got an Ashland police officer to go to the Federer home, while other dispatchers set up a helicopter flight.

Others rounded up phone numbers for Shawn's relatives and reached his grandmother after getting an operator to break through a busy signal. She led Ashland County Sheriff's deputies to places the boy and his family could be: a Mansfield movie theater and Acres of Fun, an indoor amusement park near Wooster, about 20 miles from Ashland.

Police from Ontario and Wooster joined the search.

At the amusement park, the family was paged over public announcement system and officers found the them at a picnic table.

The hour deadline had expired, but Shawn got some extra time because doctors could not find another suitable patient. A Wooster police officer rushed the family to nearby Wayne County Airport, where a medical helicopter was waiting. The chopper landed 42 minutes later at the hospital, just over two hours after the first call.

Shawn endured eight hours of surgery and was sent home a month later.

"He has so much energy since we've been home from the hospital. It's like he's a changed person," his mother said.

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