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Cuyahoga Falls Boy, 6, Receives Heart Transplant

June 18, 2008

By Jewell Cardwell, The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio

Jun. 18–Melanie and Bill Edwards of Hartville know about miracles.

Sally Rohler, mother of Melanie and grandmother to the family’s real-life miracle, was kind enough to bring me up to speed.

Jakub Edwards, 6, who was featured in my June 4 column, was diagnosed with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy (congestive heart failure) May 18 and was on the heart transplant list at the Cleveland Clinic.

Jakub’s new heart arrived at 9:45 p.m. June 7 after being flown from North Carolina, Mrs. Rohler said.

As heart transplant surgeries go, “his went very well,” Mrs. Rohler said. “The surgery went fairly well. Except that it was long. About eight hours.”

Mrs. Rohler said her grandson was playing T-ball one minute and all seemed right with the world. That was May 15.

“He was hitting real good,” she said. “But was getting out of breath.”

His parents took him to a doctor, who diagnosed asthma, she said.

“But he kept getting worse. By Sunday morning, he had a terrible stomachache,” Mrs. Rohler said. “They got him to [Akron] Children’s Hospital, where he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. And he and his Daddy were flown in a helicopter to the Cleveland Children’s Clinic, where they said his heart was four times as large as it was supposed to be.”

He and his family prayed and waited with very mixed emotions for a miracle.

The miracle, they knew, would come at a high cost to another family. It meant another child would have to die. And that child’s parents — in the midst of their worst nightmare — would have to make a quick decision to donate organs — to choose life for someone’s child.

They did.

“It takes special parents to do that,” Mrs. Rohler noted.

And the Edwardses, Jakub and the Rohlers will forever be in their debt.

“We had people from all over — South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, Ohio — praying for Jakub,” Mrs. Rohler said.

The women in a Sunday School class at Akron Baptist Church even made a prayer quilt with a baseball theme for Jakub. The Rohlers have been attending services there since their recent move from Columbia, S.C., to Cuyahoga Falls.

“He still has a very long road ahead of him,” Mrs. Rohler said. “So, he still needs everybody’s prayers . . . But he’s already off life support . . . “

That means, among other things, that his parents — who have been at his side since May 18 — haven’t been at their jobs. And are unsure when they’ll be able to return.

So, a Jakub Edwards Benevolent Fund has been set up at FirstMerit Bank (any branch) to help with expenses.

Brave boy loses battle

Following the death of their 9-year-old son, Susan and Joe Lettieri of Hudson are committed to doing everything they can to help other children battling cancer. Anthony “Tony” Lettieri “passed away at 3:55 p.m. [Thursday, June 12] in my arms,” Susan Lettieri wrote. She delivered the sad news in a widely circulated e-mail.

Tony, who had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and had received a bone marrow transplant at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, suffered a number of setbacks but did not lose his faith.

“Tony received the sacraments of Confirmation and Last Rites before dying . . . “

The Mass of Christian Burial was Tuesday at St. Mary Catholic Church in Hudson.

In lieu of flowers, she wrote, donations may be made to the Tony M. Lettieri Benevolent Fund, FirstMerit Bank, 3027 Graham Road, Stow, OH 44224; or to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant Program in memory of Anthony Lettieri, c/o 3333 Burnet Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229-3039.

Please continue to keep the Lettieri family in your prayers.

Kids With Courage

Hats off to Calvin Boshela, 16, of Hudson, who was tapped to be part of the American Family Children’s Hospital’s “Kids With Courage” program next month.

The five-year reunion for pediatric patients at the former University of Wisconsin Children’s Hospital is being hosted by supermodel Cindy Crawford, whose brother Jeff was treated there for leukemia. He died before his fourth birthday.

Calvin — diagnosed with leukemia when he was 3 and treated at the children’s hospital in Madison — will be accompanied by his parents, Don and Brenda.

More than 1,000 people are expected to attend — surviving cancer patients and their families like the Boshelas, as well as bereaved families like Crawfords.

Project Linus blankets

Major-league thanks to eighth-graders at Akron’s Riedinger Middle School.

Work and family teacher Therese Chadbourne reports that “for the second year in a row, thanks to a grant from Omnova Solutions, the students were able to complete 21 blankets for Project Linus!

“The students worked in pairs to prepare, cut and tie a blanket for a [seriously ill] child who is in Children’s Hospital. They worked together great, having a little fun and doing something good for their community.”

Books donated

A huge tip of the hat to Rotary Club of Fairlawn for its trail-blazing literacy project.

See if you don’t agree.

“This spring, Rotary Club of Fairlawn member Tom Kelley initiated the Rotary Literacy Program to improve literacy in our region,” writes Rotary spokesman Kurt Kleidon.

“Our club’s major literacy project is to put as many books as we can into the hands of children whose families cannot afford to provide books for them,” Kelley said.

To that end, the Rotary Club — helped in its endeavor by the Revere and Copley-Fairlawn school system and Bath Elementary School — chose Akron’s Findley Academy as the recipient, placing more than 6,000 books in the hands of deserving students and school’s library. Findley School has nearly 350 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Artwork raises funds

Kudos to Kathy Welsh — who teaches first grade at Fort Island Primary School in the Copley- Fairlawn Schools — her students and their parents for their creativity and generosity.

“Throughout the year, I saved artwork from the students from my classroom as well as from their art classroom,” Welsh said.

That artwork was the subject of a silent auction — complete with a cookie reception (students’ mothers baked the cookies), raising $413 for the Haven of Rest homeless shelter. Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or jcardwell@thebeaconjournal.com.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio

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