LARGO, Florida – A 4 year old Pinellas County just received a life changing gift … a heart transplant.
Although VPK student Sean Walsh has spent weeks in a hospital in Gainsville, he finds ways to connect with his teachers and friends at Anona Elementary School in Largo.
4 year old Sean greets his classmates from his hospital bed almost every morning.
“Hello!” he calls out via video chat.
Sean smiles ear to ear in the virtual classroom while his classmates eagerly wave to the laptop in their classroom.
Julie Nibert, Sean’s VPK teacher, says she is always overwhelmed by the 4 year old’s energy.
“He’s got the best mind right now. He’s so smart and intelligent and very caring and you can see that even though he has these wires and difficult things are going on, he’s always ready for whatever we teach,” she said with a smile.
Sean started the school year in person at Anona Elementary, but a few weeks ago heart disease landed him in the hospital from birth and on a transplant waiting list.
Sean’s mother says her son was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). It’s a congenital heart defect, and by the age of four and a half, her son had three open heart surgeries.
Sean had heart failure about a month ago. However, this week his family got the best news. Sean was next in line for a heart transplant.
The operation on Wednesday was a success and, according to his mother, his little heart is beating wonderfully.
“It was really hard not to let those tears flow when we found out. It was so exciting, ”explained Nibert.
Sean’s VPK teachers Jen Bryant and Julie Nibert are delighted. The charismatic teachers make sure that Sean doesn’t miss a beat in the classroom.
“We have the computer and we take Sean to every kid and even with the masks up and all you can see those cheeks rise, those eyes are lit up. They are like, ‘Hi Sean! I miss you. I love you! ‘”Added Bryant.
Bryant and Nibert aren’t sure when Sean will be ready to return in person, but they are really excited to see him back home.
“His place is always here. His place is saved until he’s ready, ”said Bryant.
Sean is currently being cared for at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. Anona Elementary teachers and staff have started a toy campaign to send items to Sean at the hospital to give him a little pleasure while he recovers from the surgery.
“It’s a tough little cookie,” said Bryant. “This little four and a half year old has been through a lot and seeing his ghost is just amazing.”