After eight months, a young boy received a warm welcome back to his suburban home Thursday after undergoing a long-awaited heart transplant.
9-year-old Braeden Belcher returned to his home in Braidwood Thursday ready to get back to a normal routine. He was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning the left side of his heart never really developed, according to his mom Lisa Belcher. Just before Thanksgiving, he was hospitalized and wasn't recovering.
“There was no other option but to have a heart transplant,” Lisa said. In June, the transplant finally happened and he had been recovering at Chicago's Lurie Children’s Hospital ever since.
Just a week before his tenth birthday, Braeden came home to a ride on the Braidwood firetruck, and a heartfelt parade of dozens of neighbors and friends.
“I’m really happy that he got his heart,” said Lainie shepherd, who came out to support Braeden.
“I think it’s amazing our community could get together to do this,” added Darby O'Shea.
Even the man who drove Braeden's new heart to the hospital was there to see him return home.
“It’s really special,” Herb Weyer said, holding back tears.
"They were really hoping to get him home before his birthday so this is awesome,” mom Lisa said. “Couldn't be a better birthday present really.”
Braeden was "very happy,” he said, and looking forward to “just riding my bike.”
Friends and family released balloons in honor of the heart donor at the Belchers’ home, where he is ready to start his new, less restrictive life.
“He has less limitation now than he did with old heart. So he's ready to live a full, full life," Lisa said. “There's no stopping him.”
Braeden’s family wanted to highlight the importance of organ donation, and also plan to give back to the groups that helped them through the difficult times.