PARK RAPIDS, Minn. – A 9-year-old Park Rapids boy has a Christmas wish list like no other: The gift of life.
Gannon Wilkins needs a new heart and is at the top of the waiting list at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
In Mrs. Baumgartner's third-grade class at Century Elementary School on Monday, it was all about math.
Smack dab in the middle of his classmates, Gannon wears a backpack that is his lifeline.
“It’s an amazing gift, just to have a normal life every day,” Gannon’s mother, Amanda Wilkins, said.
Inside that backpack is a pump.
"Because his heart function is so low, it cannot pump on its own. It kind of flutters more than gives a complete squeeze,” Amanda Wilkins said.
Gannon knows the medical lingo.
"Sometimes it’s high pressure, sometimes it’s upstream occlusion. I forgot what the others are,” Gannon said.
The backpack keeps Gannon alive as he and his family wait for the call from Mayo Clinic that a heart has been found. This Christmas, they won't travel far, as the call could come any time.
"He is listed at level 1A, and the last that we heard, he’s at the top of the list for his age and size at Mayo Clinic,” Amanda Wilkins said.
And when he is not busy at school or church, Gannon is in Cub Scouts, preparing for an upcoming big event.
"The Pinewood Derby. Yeah, I figured out my design. Like a lava lamp,” Gannon said.
Gannon comes to Sanford Health in Fargo periodically for heart tests as he awaits a new heart. He was born with something called Long QT Syndrome.
“There is no fix,” Amanda Wilkins said.
For Gannon, the transplant is needed for his survival.
"You have two ways of looking at it: In order to save somebody’s life, somebody unfortunately has to give up theirs, but anything you can do to keep life going and moving forward is a great thing,” Gannon’s father, Bobby Wilkins, said.
And for the family, Christmas and all that surrounds it is different this year. They wait. Some family somewhere will make a decision that gives Gannon life, something his mother never stops thinking about.
For more on this heart condition and ways to assist this family visit their Facebook page, Gannon’s Heart Journey.