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1-year-old’s birthday photo shoot reaches out to family of his heart donor

“My child has their child’s heart beating inside of him and he’s thriving and it’s all because of them,” said Titus’s mom, Rena Sickles. “I’d love to thank them in person." (Courtesy ABC)

(NEW YORK) — Titus Sickles was close to dying before a heart transplant saved his life when he was just 3 months old.

When Titus turned one in January, his parents marked the milestone the way a lot of parents do, with a photo shoot.

Titus’ photographs, though, had a bigger purpose: trying to find the family of the infant whose heart saved his life.

“My child has their child’s heart beating inside of him and he’s thriving and it’s all because of them,” said Titus’s mom, Rena Sickles. “I’d love to thank them in person.”

Due to privacy rules, Sickles and her husband, parents of three sons in addition to Titus, know nothing about the family who chose to have their child be an organ donor.

Rena Sickles, of Toledo, Washington, found out when she was 18 weeks pregnant that Titus would be born with half a heart. When he was born on Jan. 8, 2018, he also had dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart fails to pump blood effectively.

The family put their lives on hold while they waited for a donor heart for Titus. He began to decline rapidly right before the transplant came through in April, according to Sickles.

“I hadn’t really had any meltdowns but I just broke down and said, ‘He’s about done fighting,’” she recalled. “[My husband and I] agreed that if he was done, we were going to let him go. We couldn’t watch him suffer anymore.”

“The call for the transplant came the next day,” Sickles said.

Titus underwent a four-hour heart transplant at Seattle Children’s Hospital on April 7, 2018. There was only a one-hour lapse from the time the heart was taken out of the donor’s body and transplanted to Titus, so Sickles believes the donor family is likely local.

“I figure if we get the picture out, maybe the parents or grandmother or an aunt or uncle will see it,” Sickles said. “Even if they don’t reach out to us, maybe they’ll see it and get a little healing from that.”

Sickles also hopes the photos raise awareness of organ donation.

Titus is now a happy, healthy 1-year-old who can keep up with his brothers and loves to laugh and dance, according to Sickles.

“We were so close to burying our child and organ donation is the absolutely only reason he’s still here,” she said.

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