Yesterday in Part I of this transplant story, Liam Sprague’s mom, Carolynn, and Maren Foster’s dad, Travis, told us about their children who both had a life-saving organ transplant on February 25, 2014 at Cincinnati Children’s.
What follows is the story of how these two families discovered each other and came together via social media and a project called The Waiting List.
Carolynn Sprague: A few days prior to Liam’s transplant there was a tragic house fire in Indianapolis killing a family of six. The news reported that three of the six family members were able to donate organs and that the youngest child’s heart had gone to a 4-year-old in Ohio. Liam was 4 and we were in Ohio and he had just received his heart. People in our community saw the news and put two and two together. Soon we were bombarded with people telling us they knew who Liam’s donor was. My husband and I agreed to focus on Liam’s healing and allow the donor family to grieve as they had suffered an awful loss of not one, but six family members. We told one another that we wouldn’t contact them, and wait for them to contact us. A few months later we received an email from David, the uncle of Liam’s donor. David’s brother Leo and his wife, and their four children were killed in the house fire. His nephew Fuentez Guerra was my son’s heart donor.
Travis Foster: During Maren’s stay in the hospital, I came across The Waiting List and enjoyed reading all the encouraging stories, because we needed encouragement. Maren had some complications and we were scared. After we got home in April, I reached out to Mr. Lee who founded the Waiting List and thanked him for what he did, and told him a little bit about Maren. He responded back and invited me to tell #marenstory the week of her first birthday. Through the comments left on Maren’s posts, I engaged with people from all over the world. I will never forget reading the comments of Carolynn Sprague, whose son had a heart transplant the same day as my daughter’s liver transplant, in Cincinnati like Maren. Liam’s mom and I messaged back and forth a few times and I asked Carolynn to keep me updated on her son. She sent me a link to Liam’s Army Facebook page and I immediately went to it. The last post was about the Guerra family in Indianapolis, IN; Fuentes was Liam’s heart donor. I wondered if Fuentes was also Maren’s organ donor.
Carolynn Sprague: As Travis shared Maren’s story on The Waiting List he included her age and where they were from. I remembered some information we received that said an 8 month old had received Fuentez’s liver. Maren was from West Virginia and that’s where it said the baby who received the liver lived. I told Travis in the comments that I needed to show him something. It was the portion of the letter from IOPO that summed up who the liver went to and it matched Maren’s story perfectly. I was so excited. I called my husband at work to tell him and then texted a close friend to tell her. I couldn’t believe that both of our kids received organs from the same donor on the same day at the same hospital. It’s simply amazing.
Travis Foster: I asked Carolynn if she thought that Liam and Maren had the same donor because her son and my daughter both received their organ transplants on the same day at the same hospital. She forwarded me a copy of a thank you letter from the IOPO that was sent to the Guerra family. Listed second was ‘An 8-month-old girl from West Virginia received his liver and is still in the hospital. She lives with her parents and one sibling.’ I can’t explain the emotion I felt when I saw this. We knew very little about Maren’s donor until that moment.
So Grateful to the Guerra Family
Carolynn Sprague: There are not enough words to express my gratitude to the Guerra family for giving Liam a second chance. During a tragic time in their lives they gave us the greatest gift of all, the gift of life. When I received the email from Fuentes’ uncle I was overjoyed. I had hoped we’d hear from the family. I wanted to know more about Liam’s organ donor and I wanted them to learn more about my son. When I posted on Liam’s page about some of the struggles Liam faces, the Guerras reply with encouraging comments. I am glad we are able to share his journey with them. Over the last year we’ve started saying #1heart2heroes. Both Fuentes and Liam share the same heart and they are both heroes. If not for the Guerra family’s choice to donate life, today would not be possible. THANK YOU Guerra family. We love you, our familia.
Travis Foster: A day didn’t pass that I didn’t think of her donor and could not wait to say thank you. Carolynn told David, the family contact person, about Maren and we messaged back and forth on Facebook a few days later. We continue to stay in touch via Facebook and we can’t wait to go to Indianapolis and thank the Guerra Family in person.
Travis Foster to David Lee at The Waiting List: I hope you are doing well! Did I mention to you during the series we did in July that we think we figured out who Maren’s liver donor was. Since the story I’ve been in contact with an uncle of the family of Maren’s donor and it has been confirmed through the OPO in Indiana. The donor was a six-year-old boy, Fuentez Guerra, from Indianapolis. Through the posts on @the_waitinglist I got in contact with the mother of a child that received Fuentez’s heart on the same day Maren received her liver transplant. I hope that we are able to meet them all in person soon. I want to thank you again for sharing #marenstory, I truly believe it made all of this possible.
From Travis Foster: Dear David and Guerra family – Today marks the one-year anniversary of Maren’s life-saving liver transplant, and my wife Ellen and I can’t thank you enough for making the decision to donate Fuentes’ organs. I can’t imagine how hard this last year and this last week has been for you and your family. Please know that my family and I think of you every day. I know this won’t bring your loved ones back, but their lives will be carried on by all the recipients that they have helped. Like my daughter Maren and Carolynn’s son Liam. All though we haven’t met you in person, you are an amazing family and we can’t wait to tell you in person.