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Two households, one coronary heart: How the tragic dying of a child in Racine saved the lifetime of one other in Kansas | Native Information

Two infants have been born in 2018. Arkaydin Howard in Racine, Wisconsin. Peter Hernandez in Silica, Kansas. Little did both household know, their tales would quickly be deeply intertwined.

Christopher and Erin Hernandez welcomed their third little one, Peter, into the world on Aug. 18, 2018. He appeared wholesome. However his coronary heart wasn’t functioning accurately.

“It was a nurse that caught that he had a coronary heart murmur,” Christopher mentioned. “With that scan, they realized one thing extra speedy had occurred and we hadn’t actually obtained a whole lot of particulars at that time.”

However, the hospital they have been at didn’t have the required gear to do extra for Peter. After being despatched to Kansas Metropolis’s Kids’s Hospital, the household was knowledgeable that Peter had a congenital coronary heart defect: aortic stenosis.

Not even two weeks outdated, Peter would endure his first surgical procedure to restore his little coronary heart. Whereas the surgical procedure was initially dominated successful, Peter contracted a staph an infection that will destroy the repairs.

After open coronary heart surgical procedure at simply 4 weeks outdated, Peter was doing higher, then he wasn’t.

“On the day that we thought we have been going to depart the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit), as a substitute he went into cardiac arrest and ended up again on life help,” Erin mentioned.

In November 2018, Peter was listed on the transplant checklist.

Brittney Struebing and Arkaydin 3

Brittney Struebing snuggles along with her son, Arkaydin Howard.

‘He was such a very good boy’

That very same month, Arkaydin Howard was born, on Nov. 4, however his time could be quick. Arkaydin’s mom, Brittney Struebing, mentioned when he was along with her, he was a really completely happy child.

“He was such a very good boy,” Struebing mentioned final November. “He was so cute, actually excellent.”

At simply 3 months outdated, in February 2019, Arkaydin died when his father was speculated to have been taking care of him. A jury discovered his father responsible of second-degree reckless murder in November 2020; he was accused of getting shaken the infant. He’s on account of be sentenced Friday.

Struebing, a younger grownup, was confronted with an almost inconceivable alternative after shedding her son: whether or not to donate her little boy’s organs. Ultimately, Struebing elected to donate Arkaydin’s coronary heart with the hope of serving to another person’s child.

His coronary heart would reply the Hernandez household’s prayers. Christopher and Erin known as it bittersweet.

“You’re actually praying for one more little one to not make it and, so it appears like — you’re not — nevertheless it feels prefer it as a result of the best hope in our life at that time additionally meant another person’s worst day of their life,” Erin mentioned.


The Hernandez household, from left to proper: Peter, Christopher, Erin, Aurora and Michael

His coronary heart beats on

Arkaydin’s coronary heart beats on as we speak. Peter acquired Arkaydin’s coronary heart 4 months after being on the transplant checklist, throughout which era the Hernandez household had basically turn out to be two items. Erin stayed in Kansas Metropolis with Peter on the hospital whereas Christopher, alongside the assistance with household and the group, took care of the couple’s different two kids, Aurora and Michael.

Peter’s mother and father expressed gratitude for his or her “superb” group that chipped in to assist whereas the household labored in direction of bringing Peter house, which they did when he was virtually 9 months outdated. However for Christopher, essentially the most superb factor was his spouse. He jokes that she might return to highschool for nursing after studying a lot from her expertise caring for Peter.

“Erin has executed an amazing quantity of labor with him, as a result of while you’re a Coronary heart Mother, I believe you’re a Coronary heart Mother for all times,” Christopher mentioned. “Coronary heart Mother” refers to oldsters of youngsters with coronary heart points.

Whereas the household has been in contact with Struebing via letters and telephone calls, they met for the primary time through Zoom on Tuesday. Christopher and Erin defined to their children, now aged 3, 7 and 10, that Struebing was the “Coronary heart Mother,” as they name her of their home.

Peter, like every 3-year-old, was enjoying together with his “Paw Patrol” toys whereas sporting “Paw Patrol” footie pajamas, which he promptly confirmed off to Struebing.

“Thanks for my coronary heart,” Peter mentioned to Struebing.


Peter Hernandez, alive and properly because of the donated coronary heart of Racine’s Arkaydin Howard, smiles right here as a 3-year-old.

Completely happy to satisfy them

Struebing mentioned she was so completely happy to satisfy the household and to see that Peter was “so sturdy.” Erin and Christopher, who mentioned Struebing was now part of their household, are looking for out a means for her to take heed to Arkaydin’s coronary heart once more and likewise plan for her to go to them.

“Thanks for preserving it (Arkaydin’s coronary heart) sturdy and going, so thanks to you, too,” Struebing instructed Peter.

After going via bodily, occupational and speech remedy, Peter lives like most 3-year-olds, enjoying and inflicting mayhem for his siblings. For Christopher and Erin, listening to their different kids complain about Peter is definitely a very good factor, because it’s “regular.”

By sharing their story, the Hernandez household mentioned, they hope to lift consciousness for the Racine group to heal from the tragedy of Arkaydin’s dying and for Struebing’s scenario.

A grieving mum recognised a stranger on TV as the person who acquired her son’s coronary heart and rushed to him to really feel his heartbeat — now they contemplate one another as household and communicate every single day. Valerie Stebel, 45, misplaced her son, Cody, 20, from extreme accidents he suffered in a automobile accident simply months after he had handed his driving take a look at in Might 2017.



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