Rylen Littlejohn began experiencing a stomachache that would not go away just a few months shy of his seventh birthday. The pain worsened and then he started vomiting. When that wouldn’t stop, his mother, Kim, took him to the doctor where he was misdiagnosed as having a 48-hour stomach virus.
Days later, Rylen was so severely dehydrated that he was sent to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. X-rays were taken and the results were serious: the problem was not Rylen’s stomach, it was his heart. He was immediately transferred to the Children’s Michael P. Fisher Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) and was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged and cannot pump blood efficiently.
Rylen’s doctors didn’t know exactly what had caused his cardiomyopathy, and all available medical therapies did not help his heart to recover. It became clear that Rylen needed a new heart.