North Liberty, Iowa
Beckham Scadlock is a typical boy who lives life to the fullest. He is a mischievous scamp, a rambunctious explorer, and a perpetual motion machine, all wrapped up in a compact body topped by an impish grin and a mop of curly hair.
It’s hard to imagine that Beckham was very, very sick when he was born. He had trouble breathing and a heart murmur. He was transferred to a larger facility where doctors diagnosed mitral valve and tricuspid valve stenosis. His heart was barely working and was unable to infuse his blood with life-giving oxygen.
Five days after he was born he was flown via medical helicopter to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and immediately placed on the heart transplant list. “Doctors said that was his only option,” says Beckham’s mother, Kim.
Meeting with their newborn son’s new doctors and nurses in the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, the Scadlocks both felt at ease for the first time since Beckham was born. “He was in the place he needed to be and everyone was so very welcoming to us,” adds Kim.
About 10 days later, a donor heart became available and their young son came through the eight-hour surgery with flying colors. “We knew right away he was doing better. For the first time since he was born his skin color was pink rather than blue,” remembers his father, Nate.
In fact, Beckham recovered quickly and went home after a month. Kim says, “In the hospital, he ate without a feeding tube and he nursed. He was just perfect. He didn’t seem to be set back at all from his sickness.” Beckham recovered fairly easily from the surgery and the transplant, but he had an unexplained stroke after a series of illnesses when he was 14 months old. At 19 months old, he developed Evans Syndrome, an autoimmune blood disorder in which his body creates antibodies against his own platelets and red blood cells. But, even with these setbacks, his new heart stayed strong.
“We’re so grateful for everybody who’s been part of his care. From the coordinators to the nurses, who put in so many hours, and the doctors who have done such a good job deciding his plan of care, they’ve been so important in Beckham’s continued recovery,” says Nate.
Beckham’s health scares have eased, with few hospital visits these days, giving the little boy plenty of time at home with older sister, Gwenand younger sister Blythe.
It’s a bittersweet occasion when a child receives a donor heart because it means that another family has lost its son or daughter. Kim notes, “That’s the hardest part of the whole process, because you are fighting so hard for your child to live, but you know that in order for this to happen, another child has to pass away.”
In 2010, Beckham and his family attended the Transplant Olympic Games in Madison, Wisc., where they met the family of the child whose heart now beats in his chest. “Beckham can be headstrong, but he ran right into their arms for a hug. What better way to show what the gift of life can do,” says Kim.