heart transplant

‘So Thankful': Chicago Boy, 5, Gets New Heart Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

“All these people start messaging us saying, 'This is great news! I can’t believe it! All this bad stuff going on, and your son is getting a heart. This is amazing,'” said Joel Settecase, father of 5-year-old Lukas.

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Days after getting a new heart, Lukas Settecase is doing great.

“Lukas is a beast. He’s actually the toughest little guy you’ll ever meet,” said Joel Settecase, Lukas’ dad.

For more info on Lukas' journey, check out his Facebook page.

The 5 year old from Portage Park was diagnosed with leukemia at 10 months old. After treatment, he went into remission, but then relapsed in 2017. The ongoing treatments and a respiratory virus took their toll, and in February 2019, Lukas was diagnosed with heart failure.

“His heart was weakened by his chemo and then the virus that he had, it was a one in a million shot, but it worked its way into his heart,” said Joel Settecase.

Lukas was put on the heart transplant waiting list. On Saturday, March 28, his parents got a phone call from the heart transplant team at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago that a donor heart was available.

“I was shocked. I was so thankful, but then I was also, you add this additional layer of wait, this whole COVID-19 thing,” said Aliza Settecase, Lukas’ mom.

The coronavirus pandemic left the Settecase family with questions.

“I said, 'Is this really safe? Is this good?'”Aliza Settecase said.

The transplant team at Lurie was asking similar questions and evaluating the situation, according to Dr. Phil Thrush, medical director of the heart transplant team at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

“Where are we going to get the heart? Is it safe to send our team there? What is going to be the protocol when they get there?” Dr Thrush said, listing off their concerns.

Taking every precaution, the decision was made to go ahead with the transplant.

“You hate to lose that opportunity, because you don’t know if a child was going to wait another week, a month, three months, six months,” said Dr. Thrush.

As word of the transplant spread, the Settecase family started getting uplifting phone calls and messages.

“All these people start messaging us saying, 'This is great news! I can’t believe it! All this bad stuff going on, and your son is getting a heart. This is amazing,'” Joel Settecase said.

“Unfortunately, heart failure doesn’t care that there is a pandemic going on. Unfortunately, we still have sick kids, so being able to provide those services is very valuable and very important,” Dr. Thrush said.

Lukas’ new heart is being seen as a sign of hope. If Lukas continues to do well, he could go home in the next week or two.

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