Oklahoma boy needs second heart transplant

Jhett Skaggs' donated heart is failing. Now, the 5-year-old boy from Lexington, OK, awaits a donor heart to save his life.
by Heather Warlick Published: November 5, 2012

For the second time in his life, Jhett Skaggs, 5, is waiting for a new heart. His first heart transplant took place when he was barely 9 months old, after a battle against a disease that nearly claimed his life.

You may remember the Skaggs family of Lexington for their appearance on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in 2010. Because of Jhett's fragile health and the hazardous state of the family's home, the show built the family a new house.

By all appearances, the boy seems well — he plays T-ball, goes to school and church, runs, plays and laughs like his friends.

Skaggs' first heart transplant seemed to be a success. The new heart was supposed to last for 12 to 15 years.

But Skaggs' new heart is failing — a routine checkup showed that transplant coronary artery disease has begun to ravage the organ. The disease is common in transplant patients, Audra Skaggs said.

“We're blessed to have caught it because a lot of kids who get it, they don't have any symptoms and it's just sudden death,” Skaggs said.

So again, Jhett Skaggs awaits a new heart. Last week, a medical review board met to assess his situation. Once approved by the family's insurance company, Skaggs will be put on a waiting list for a new heart.

It could take between four and eight months for a new heart to become available, doctors tell the family. In the meantime, Jhett must live within one hour of The Heart Center at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. Starting soon, Jhett and his father, Brian Skaggs will stay in Houston together during the workweek. Audra Skaggs and daughter, Merit Skaggs, will join them on weekends.

“I call him my million-dollar baby,” said Audra Skaggs. The boy's first heart transplant in 2007 cost more than $1.3 million, she said. The Skaggs' insurance covered about 80 percent.

by Steve Lackmeyer
Reporter Sr.
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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