ANN ARBOR, Mich. -

"I'm still waiting for my hero."

They're just six short words, delivered by an 11-year-old boy with a sweet smile.

His name is Caden Bowles, and his family hopes he can convince you to be a hero.

We usually bring you the happy stories of organ donation -- the patients who get the gift of life, often in the nick of time. That didn't happen in this case, and perhaps that makes Caden's story even more important to share.

Caden was a kind, talkative, joyful 11-year-old boy from Fort Wayne, Indiana. A peacemaker, who was intelligent beyond his years.

"He loved life, and he wanted to live," said Caden's mom Shannon Bowles.

Caden loved his three younger siblings Ava, Brigham and Drake. And Caden loved cars -- really, really loved cars.


"From the nicest, most expensive sports car to the infamous Yugo, he thought they were all great and have their place," said dad Lance Bowles.


Born with a heart defect that couldn't be fixed, Caden received a heart transplant at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital when he was just six weeks old.

"He all of a sudden was this healthy child, and we were able to leave the hospital within two weeks after that surgery to go home," said Shannon. "So he could have a normal childhood."

But at age seven, Caden developed cancer, a side effect of the drugs he took to keep his body from rejecting his new heart.

He beat the cancer, but last year, began to feel sick. Doctors had to break the news to his parents and to Caden.

"His transplant doctor came in and they very gently told him that he was rejecting his heart, and he said, 'I'm rejecting my heart?' said Shannon. "He was just shocked, and one of his doctors who was standing there said, 'Caden, we're going to beat this, OK?'"

Dr. John Charpie, a pediatric cardiologist at C.S. Mott, was one of those doctors.

"Even in this day and age, with all of the advances in technology and medicine, most heart transplants last about ten years," said Charpie. "So one of the problems we run into with infants who require hearts is they're going to require several heart transplants throughout their life."

Doctors tried to control the rejection, but it became clear Caden needed a new heart soon.

And so there he was, waiting, when he was asked by U of M to be part of a video to promote organ donation. He agreed.

"It was so typical of Caden," said Charpie. "He was always giving, he was always thinking of others."

When the big moment arrived --

"He seemed a little nervous to me. His voice seemed a little shaky. He wanted to say the right thing," remembered Shannon.

But he delivered his line like the champ he was.

"I'm still waiting for my hero."

It would be one of the last things Caden got to do. Hours later, he took a turn for the worse. He was put on a bypass machine, and then a mechanical heart, trying to buy time.