On March 7, 2016 the world as my family knew it would be forever changed. We would be thrown into a world of unknown, waiting, and a world that would test our faith, and make you feel as though you are the only person in a crowded room carrying a burden that is twice the size of you.
My son, Jakob, was admitted to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta: Egleston with heart failure. Throughout the week, many tests were run and procedures were tried to restore Jakob's heart function. With no success, Jakob's only chance at life would be a heart transplant. Hearing those words as a parent will bring you straight to your knees! I can never explain how it felt to explain to my 10-year old that Egleston would be his home until a heart was available for him. I'm still not sure if he grasped the magnitude of having someone else's heart inside his body. He waited and waited and waited. He missed so much, his friends, school, baseball, being abnormal kid... he felt like he was the only 10-year old going through such a difficult thing. I believe we both felt that way. We felt as though no one could possibly understand what it's like to be told your child needs a new heart, you now have to live in a hospital, you live in a constant state of "Is this the day?". Every day you wake up, you fight another day. You're now one day closer to getting this life saving organ that the need far exceeds the quantity of. You become a number on a list, waiting your turn; praying that your family's turn will come before it's too late!
When my family never felt so alone we went to an event the hospital was hosting honoring donors. That was when God placed Bronco and his family in our path. Bronco and Jakob immediately clicked! They were both 10 years old and had such a rare thing in common. Bronco had been through the same process just one year prior to Jakob. As Jakob and Bronco were off playing pranks, I was able to speak with his mother, Joanna. I can never express the weight lifted off my shoulders knowing another family had these exact same feelings, knew exactly what we were going through, and what our future would look like. They knew! They went through it! They made it out alive! We weren't alone! There are other families out there!
That was only the first of the many times I would see or speak to the Reese's. They were right there with us through the whole process and still are. Jakob received his heart on June 13th, 2016 and after a few setbacks is now a normal kid again. Bronco and his family, and their foundation, are very near and dear to my heart. They support the families who need it the most. What they do for the Cardiac Step Down Unit with the snack cart is amazing. It's one of the ways they help the families feel a little closer to normal. They have an amazing sense of gratitude and know exactly where to help. Who would know better than a family who has truly been through it? I can never say enough about their foundation or them as a family. They are a blessing not just to us but the community as well. Thank you for all you do!
The halls of a hospital are often quiet—patients are resting, nurses and doctors are working, families are worrying. The silence and background noise of machines beeping and notes being written are rarely interrupted.
But this quiet didn’t stop one patient. I was in the middle of the nurses’ station, the heart of the floor, when I saw something moving quickly out of the corner of my eye. I looked up to see the impish smile of an incredible boy, riding his IV pole down the hallway as a scooter. On his joyride, he smiled, waved, and spoke to every nurse and doctor he saw. One would have never known how sick this boy was. This is the spirt of Bronco Reese.
My name is Vicki Haug, and I had the privilege of caring as a nurse for this wonderful, generous, tenacious little boy while he waited for his heart transplant at the Cardiac Stepdown Unit (CSU) at Children’s. During Bronco’s long hospitalization, I had the chance to witness not only Bronco’s bravery, but also the courage and strength of his parents—Scott and Joanna. Through the unknown waiting period for Bronco’s new heart, Scott and Joanna maintained an incredible understanding, an unbelievable bravery and positivity, a witty, much-needed sense of humor, an unprecedented patience, and most of all—a spirit of love. They showed this love through their devotion and commitment to their son and his recovery. Their love for Bronco and their understanding of their experience encouraged them to pay it forward.
Since Bronco’s discharge from the hospital, The Reese Family has continued to bless Children’s with their generosity in a number of ways. They provide meals, snacks, and drinks to the CSU’s program, Feed the Heart—a volunteer-based, staff-initiated program specifically designed to assist the families and patients of the CSU. Feed the Heart provides meals for the families of patients (approximately 50 people) every other week, as well as maintaining a constant Food Pantry full of snacks and drinks on the floor.
When the Reese Family gives to Feed the Heart, they do not stop with just the families of the CSU. Instead, they feed the full staff of the CSU, CICU, doctors, families, and patients alike. The Reese’s and Bronco always go the extra mile. With a big smile in tow, Bronco knocks on the doors of every patient to personally invite them to the Feed the Heart meal. The Reese family routinely gives meals and stocks the pantry at least every 3 months, always bringing their positive, warm, infectious energy and love with them.
Bronco’s family and friends share the generosity of spirit that Bronco and his parents give to the world. Scott, Joanna, and their buddies organized multiple fundraisers, culminating in a motorcycle ride to raise money for The Pediatric Transplant Clinic. I had the honor of witnessing the celebration of this philanthropy on the CSU floor. The Reese crew arrived on the floor crying, laughing, and cheering with a large donation to help children like their Bronco.
When I think about Bronco and his family and all that they have been through, I am filled with an overwhelming amount of appreciation and admiration. Bronco is an inspiration, and I am honored to be a part of his story and all that he still has to write. The patients, families, and staff at CSU are forever grateful.
On behalf of all of us here at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, I wanted to thank you and all your supporters of Bronco's Benevolent Foundation for your continued support for our patient and families that we serve in the Sibley Heart Center.
With more than 35,000 children treated annually, our cardiac program ranks among the best in the country. U.S. News & World Report has ranked our cardiology and heart surgery program in the top 10 nationwide for six consecutive years.
Because of you, we are able to meet the needs of our patients and families whose stay in our hospital can be days, weeks or even months. In addition, your support of the Feed the Heart program allows these families to feel the comfort you share, as they may be experiencing stress, financial worry and concern for their entire family.
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta is the strong and leading organization in pediatric healthcare because of our extended family. Thank you for making us a stronger family and making a difference in the lives of so many. Your support is truly appreciated and we value the impact you have in the care we provide.
Thank you again.
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation