Supporting Their Son

By: Ashley Estill
August 30, 2017
The Patriot Magazine

“Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, we need to run cardiovascular tests on your son, it appears he is in congestive heart failure.”

 That is the last thing Dale and Kelly Anderson imagined they would hear after their 13-year-old son Hunter was taken to the doctor after not feeling well. The Anderson’s whirlwind experience began at the end of January after Hunter started to feel bad. Having a history of asthma and pneumonia, Hunter was initially diagnosed with an ear infection, given medicine and sent home. After his symptoms became more severe to include chest pains – Dale and Kelly knew something was wrong.

In a matter of 24 hours, Hunter was taken to Ft. Belvoir in Virginia, Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland, and finally Children’s Hospital in Washington, DC because x-rays and cardiovascular tests confirmed he had enlarged heart muscles.

“We came in and met everybody in the heart transplant team, heart failure team and all the doctors,” explained Dale. “But the bottom line was that Hunter’s heart was failing him and if the doctors didn’t do something right then and there, his heart would fail.”

In the middle of this, Dale and Kelly needed to find a place to stay so they could be close to their son during this medical crisis. Army veteran, Dale and Kelly were able to get a room at the DC VA’s Fisher House.

“They’re going to have a room for however long they need one,” said Ken Merritt, manager of the DC VA Fisher House. “We are privileged to provide for our families who are struggling to be there for their loved ones.”

Dale and Kelly are now across the street from Hunter, who was moved after five days from Children’s Hospital to Washington Hospital Center, located on the same campus at the VA and Children’s Hospital. His first night at Washington Hospital Center, Hunter underwent a cardiac catheterization, a medical procedure used to diagnose and treat some heart conditions. Doctors then informed Dale and Kelly that Hunter needed a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, because the left side of his heart was shutting down.  He had surgery February 8, and Dale and Kelly are now taking things day by day.

“Our son is now the youngest to be brought in and receive an LVAD,” Dale said.

Miles Davis, whose family has now become close with the Anderson’s, was the former youngest to receive the device when he as 16. 

Right now Hunter is on the waiting list for a heart transplant, something that could come in 10 days or longer down the road.

“He’s a fighter, and we’ve got a long fight ahead of us,” Dale said. “Because of Hunter’s priority status for a heart transplant, when one comes available he’ll get the transplant and take anti-rejection and blood pressure medication for the rest of his life.”

Staying positive and supporting Hunter, the Andersons are so grateful to be so close to him during everything.

“I just want to say thank you very much to the Fisher House,” Dale said. “The manager and everyone at the hospitals have made it possible for Kelly and I to trade off so one of us is with Hunter. This is the greatest comfort in the world knowing I’m right here.”

The DC VA Fisher House is the second house the Anderson’s have been in. They were formerly guests at the Fisher House at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Both homes have provided them with ease, knowing they are within walking distance to the hospital.

“When Hunter has his heart transplant, we’ll be right here,” Kelly said. “We appreciate being here so much, and they’ve taken such good care of us.” 

Right now Hunter is resting comfortably at home with his family while they wait for news on his heart transplant. Kelly and Dale Anderson stayed at the Fisher House for a total of 32 days.