Blake Bowman, pediatric heart transplant patient

Claire and Aaron Bowman paged a nurse to help them swaddle their newborn son and attempt to get some sleep. But as the nurse held Blake, she noticed something off in his color and his breathing.

That night in 2013 took Blake from the nursery to the neonatal intensive care unit and then flying from a hospital in the Upstate to MUSC by morning. Doctors diagnosed him with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition in which parts of the left side of the heart failed to develop completely. 

Blake underwent two of three surgeries needed to correct the problem within the first months of his life, but his heart proved too weak. He needed a transplant.

“Waiting for a heart is tough, because you know that it means the worst for another family,” Claire said. The Bowmans only waited about six weeks for the call. And it came just one day after Blake was discharged from his second surgery.

Blake’s transplant proved so successful that the Bowmans only stayed at MUSC for another three weeks. Blake turns 4 in March with no recollection of the medical journey behind him. 

He loves football and chasing after his Clemson graduate parents, pretending that he’s a Tiger and that they’re playing for Alabama. Blake likes to draw and has come to accept that bloodwork every month or two is a necessary part of staying healthy.

“It’s amazing,” Claire said recently. “If you told me four years ago that a child can have a heart transplant and you’d never know, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

She and Aaron, both architects, relocated from Greenville to Charleston after Blake’s diagnosis and picked up their careers in the Lowcountry. Now Claire works for McMillan Padzan Smith, one of the firms designing the new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital.

She served on an interview team at the beginning of the project and applauds both the design team and MUSC leadership for seeking input from the community in planning the new facility.

“I appreciate the level of care and attention to detail they’ve taken,” Claire said. “It’s a space that we’ll visit regularly.”

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heart, patient story