Patrick Foster: Living Life to the Fullest

When Cathi Foster was six months pregnant, she learned her baby would be born with a congenital heart defect. Three days after her son Patrick arrived, surgery patched a hole between two chambers of his heart and widened two sections of his pulmonary artery.

There was more stressful news 15 months later: Patrick suffered from Diamond Blackfan Anemia, a rare bone marrow disorder Cathi unknowingly carried. The years that followed were punctuated by blood transfusions and steroid treatments. Still, the outlook was bleak.

“We were told he wouldn’t get past six years old, he would be short in stature and mentally handicapped,” Cathi recalls. But Patrick surprised them all.

At 16, Patrick stands 5-feet-eight inches tall and is looking ahead to college.

A turning point came in 2015 when he received a donated heart valve to further repair and strengthen his cardiac function. Six months after the surgery, his health improved, and he grew six inches. “He is doing phenomenal,” Cathi says. “He’s healthier than some of his peers.”

Cathi says she was astonished the heart valve Patrick received was human, not artificial. She thought about the donor, the donor family and the generous gift her son had received. She wondered if additional information was possible and whether they could meet the donor family.

The donor family preferred not to meet, instead, sending a letter to the Fosters. It read, in part, “We are grateful that we had 45 years with [our son]. He was very loving and generous. He had many friends and family members who remember him that way. It makes us happy to know that Patrick and his family can live a more normal life with one part of [our son] working for him.”

The Fosters are thankful for the donor family’s strength and courage in consenting to donation and hope one day to meet the family whose son gave Patrick the gift of life through donation.

Although Patrick can’t tell them in person, “I want them to understand I deeply, deeply appreciate it,” he says. “I’m glad they were willing to say ‘yes’ and do that for me. I can’t imagine how hard that had to be.”

In addition to preparing for Kuyper College in Michigan—with plans to become a youth minister—Patrick has been living life to the fullest. He visited Vietnam for 10 days as part of a church group, helping Vietnamese youth with English and honing their soccer skills. He also has raised $20,000 on behalf of the Children’s Miracle Network and advocates for donation whenever he can.

“I want to give hope to other people,” he says. “I’m super grateful for donation. It has kept me going.”

For more information on Patrick’s journey, take a look at “Patrick’s Fight With DBA,” his special blog on Facebook.