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The Robert G. Fenley Writing Awards: General Staff Writing - Silver

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Moving Mountains - All Andy needed was a chance, and a miracle.
Moving Mountains - All Andy needed was a chance, and a miracle.

“Moving Mountains - All Andy needed was a chance, and a miracle” by Bill Levesque
University of Florida Health

Young Andy Herrera from the Dominican Republic needed a new heart. A congenital heart defect and several previous major surgeries left him near death. His last option was visiting University of Florida Health for a life-saving heart transplant. All before his 15th birthday.

What followed was a hazardous medical journey that took more than a year and left even some of his doctors doubtful of Andy’s chances. This was a boy sicker than any pediatric patient they had ever seen. Andy was so sick he had to be placed on a life-support machine called ECMO, that oxygenated his blood and did the work of his dying heart.

Andy would spend just over a year on ECMO during the long wait for him to get strong enough for heart-transplant surgery, far longer than anyone the doctors could find in the medical literature. Most patients spend days or weeks on ECMO.

Andy would finally get his new heart. He would do what so many people thought impossible.

He would survive. And thrive.

His first request after his discharge was a simple one.

He wanted to go to the movies.

“The day finally arrived, the day that had seemed so distant, so impossible.

Discharge.

Karen and Sandy loaded Andy’s belongings into bags. They wore wristbands that said, “Andy — Miracle of God.” Andy, looking tired but excited, wore a Boston Red Sox hat.”

Kyle Walker, Selena Carter, Greg Hamilton, Bill Levesque, and Rossana Passaniti
Kyle Walker, Selena Carter, Greg Hamilton, Bill Levesque, and Rossana Passaniti

What was the most impactful part of your award-winning entry?
The story of this isolated family, cut off from their home country, not speaking the language, pulled together by love and their strong faith, is what must have been most-impactful for readers. They persevered despite the greatest odds.

What is one thing you learned from this experience?
Teamwork is essential in such a complicated project, from photo, to video to editing and the rotating band of interpreters we used. We learned the importance of early and frequent coordination and consultation.

What challenge did you overcome?
Communicating effectively with the patient was our greatest hurdle because the family spoke almost no English. But we worked effectively with interpreters to overcome that.

What was the biggest challenge in writing about this topic?
The biggest challenge was reporting a story was communicating with a family that spoken little English. We worked with interpreters through every stage of this story, and translated the story into Spanish so the story could be distributed in Latin America

Contact

Gregory Hamilton, gregoryhamilton@ufl.edu

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