Parker Rana, 15, has truly overcome the odds to get to where he is today. Born with multiple heart defects, Parker grew up in and out of the hospital. But now, he’s a thriving teenager with an incredible story of hope.
Below is Parker’s story: from hospital bed to trackside, cheering on his favorite racing team, The Heart of Racing.
An unexpected delivery
Jaydine Rana, Parker’s mother, was expecting a healthy baby boy when she delivered Parker on June 2, 1999 in Mt. Vernon, Wash. Unfortunately, she got some unexpected news that day. Parker was born with a combination of four heart defects – a hole in his heart, a missing pulmonary artery and valve, an enlarged ventricle and an overriding aorta. He was airlifted to Seattle Children’s Hospital shortly after birth for treatment.
“I was numb when the doctor told us about Parker’s condition,” said Rana. “I couldn’t believe it, or process it. We didn’t know there were any problems until after he was born. We didn’t see it coming.”
At only 2 days old, Parker had open heart surgery at Seattle Children’s. His heart at the time was only about the size of a walnut. Doctors gave Parker a conduit as a temporary fix for an artery that never developed in utero.
Parker spent the next five weeks at Seattle Children’s recovering before he was healthy enough to go home.
“We felt so supported while Parker was in the hospital,” said Rana. “It gave us peace of mind knowing there were so many people watching over him. They communicated with us so well. We always knew what was happening and what they were planning to do next.”
In and out of Seattle Children’s for care
When Parker was 10 months old, he needed to travel back to Seattle Children’s for two more surgeries. He stayed through his first birthday; doctors and nurses helped throw a birthday party in the cafeteria to celebrate.
“The hospital showered us with gifts,” said Rana. “We were just so happy he came through the surgeries. Having everyone there to celebrate with us; it meant so much.
Another 10 months went by before Parker needed another surgery to install a pacemaker. He would go six years before needing another surgery.
“We spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital after that, including his fifth open heart surgery at age 7,” said Rana. “We got to know our care team very well. And we got to know some amazing doctors – doctors that never give up. I remember Dr. Chun going into cardiac catheterization one time with Parker. He was clean shaven when he went into the operating room and came out hours later with a five o’clock shadow. But that’s the kind of people they are. They’re dedicated.”
Getting on the transplant list
Eventually, Seattle Children’s Heart Center team ran out of options to fix Parkers heart. There was nothing else they could do. In April 2013, Parker went on the transplant list.
Five months later, Parker fainted at school and was transported to Seattle Children’s. After a cardiac arrest during a procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat, he wasn’t waking up. The doctors were worried about brain damage, and his heart was too weak to beat on his own, so they put him in a drug induced coma for two weeks until he received a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to help his heart pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of his body. The LVAD saved his life and there was no brain damage.
Parker was in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) at Seattle Children’s for two months.
“The cardiac ICU was a Godsend to us,” said Rana. “It was home. We can’t say enough about our doctors and nurses. They were incredible and supportive.”
In December 2013, Parker was able to leave the hospital and return home with his LVAD. Patients with this kind of VAD are able to leave the confines of the hospital while waiting for a transplant. Parker was home until April 2014, and then his heart failed.
A failing heart
Parker found himself back at Seattle Children’s, his home away from home for six more weeks.
It was during that six week stay that Parker met The Heart of Racing team, formerly Team Seattle. A big group of people were touring the CICU and walked right into their room. Immediately, he clicked with one of the racecar drivers, Ian James. All it took was the mention of a television show called Top Gear. They hit it off like they’d known each other for years. As Ian left their room that day he told Parker to watch their next race.
And just as Ian had asked, Parker was watching on race day when Ian popped up on the television screen. He gave a personal shout out to Parker, who at the time was sitting on his hospital bed awaiting a transplant.
Another birthday in the hospital
The Rana family celebrated Parker’s fifteenth birthday at Seattle Children’s, just like they had done for his first birthday. They brought together their care team, a team they’d come to call family, to celebrate what would be Parkers last birthday with a failing heart.
It was the day after his birthday when Rana got the call. “We have a heart.”
Parker was prepared for transplant. And after a 16 hour operation, he had a new heart.
Supporting a team that cares for hearts
Parker formed a special bond with the Heart of Racing Team after they visited him in the hospital while he was waiting for transplant, so much so that he’s now a part of their team.
On May 2 – 3, Parker will fly down to Monterey, Calif. to cheer them on as they race for the podium at the Monterey Grand Prix.
He can’t wait to show his support for a group that has done so much to save the lives of children who need cardiac care. To date, The Heart of Racing has raised more than $5 million for Seattle Children’s Heart Center, and helped to fund a new state-of-the art cardiac catheterization laboratory at Seattle Children’s which opened earlier this year.