CNHI/Southeast Iowa

July 3, 2014

A Heartfelt Miracle

OTTUMWA — It’s funny how wishes can change so completely in just a few weeks. But laughter wasn’t the reaction of Jeff and Mary Penrod.

The Ottumwa couple’s son, Brandon, was 18 years old when, in February, Mary took him to the Pella clinic to get looked at. He’d had flu symptoms he just couldn’t shake. The tests started, and within 30 days, doctors would hit the family with unbelievable news.

The active teen was not just sick. A virus had attacked his heart. It was so damaged, said a cardiologist, their son would need a heart transplant.

“What? No!” remembered Mary as her first reaction.

Jeff thought there was some kind of mistake. How could his son need such a drastic procedure?

The time leading up to the doctor’s recommendation was filled with fear, sadness and a sense that the situation wasn’t real.

“I was in denial over the whole thing,” said Brandon Penrod, now 19.

Before being relatively stabilized, he had three major organs failing. In fact, it was the heightened liver enzymes that first had doctors worried.

“It was a lot to take in,” said Mary. “It was devastating.”

His parents were certain that, given a little more time, his heart would get stronger. They asked for prayers. They received a lot.

At one point, after more than three weeks in an Iowa City intensive care unit, the cardiologist let Brandon go home with a pill bottle full of heart medication. He was back in Iowa City a week later. The hospital really did try to wean him off the heart medication, Mary said, but Brandon’s heart just wasn’t up to the challenge.

Jeff admits he’s not the overly-sensitive, weepy kind of guy. But even now, back in Ottumwa again, he was choking up about what his kid had been going through.

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