15-year-old gets heart transplant thanks to stranger

By Sandra Ali - Anchor/Reporter, Dawn Jorgenson - Graham Media Group

DETROIT - Just when it seemed like all hope was lost, after waiting for nearly a year, the Sullivans got the call they had been waiting for.

An outpouring of emotion was captured on home video moments after doctors wheeled 15-year-old Trevor Sullivan out of surgery.

The day marked the end of a very long journey for the Sullivan family, and the new beginning that up until now they had only hoped for.  

Local 4 News first met Trevor last February. He came down with what seemed like a common cold, but when he didn't get any better, doctors discovered Trevor's heart was failing.

"The worst part? It was hard to breathe," Trevor said.

Without a new heart, doctors didn't think Trevor would live very long.

For the Sullivans, the weeks turned into months. But after 10 months on the transplant list, they got the phone call late one November night they had been waiting for.

"I was just ready about ready like to fall asleep when the phone started ringing," said Trevor's mom, Kimberly Sullivan. "I answered and it started right off. It was the transplant coordinator and she said they had a match for Trevor and that they would be doing the transplant the next day.

"All kinds of things are going through your mind at that point," said Trevor's dad, Phill Sullivan. "What are we going to do? what's going to happen next. When they say the call can happen at any time. it can happen at any time, day and night, and that's how it went."

At first, Kimberly struggled with how to tell Trevor.

"I didn't know what words to use at the time," she said. "All the nurses were waiting outside his room. He had probably just fallen asleep, so I went in and he rolled over and looked and he saw me and says, 'What are you doing back here mom?' And I said, 'I missed you,' because I couldn't quite formulate the right words. And he asked me again and I said, 'I missed you,' and he said, 'Was there a phone call?' And I motioned for his nurses to come in and they said, 'Yup, there was.'"

Trevor's surgery was set for the next afternoon.

"It was very exciting," Kimberly Sullivan said. "It seemed like the shortest and the longest time all at once. He'd been ready to go in for his surgery and get better, so it was really great to be able to tell him it was happening before he had lost any hope."

The transplant surgery took several hours.

"I waited with every update until they told us that the new heart was in and it took off beating and everything was looking good," Kimberly Sullivan said. "That was kind of like my moment that, 'OK, you can breathe a little bit.'"

When Kimberly and Phil finally saw Trevor, none of them could hold back tears.

"I just had the biggest smile on my face, and I told the nurse, I said, 'I'm just so happy. It's like the day he was born when you're so happy.'"

The day before Thanksgiving, the Sullivans took Trevor home from the hospital.

Now, the family is finally getting a chance to settle into their new normal.

While Trevor's organ donor remains a mystery, the 15-year-old said he feels better than ever, and for that he'll always be thankful.

"Even though we don't really know them and all, I'm just really grateful that they were able to give that to me," Trevor said.

Trevor seems to be doing really well. His body is adapting and doctors haven't seen any signs of rejection at all. The family said they have relied on a lot of community support.

Click here to help the Sullivan family, or click here to learn more about Trevor's story.

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