INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indiana boy is fighting for his life, but the messages he’s received from thousands of people around the world are keeping a big smile on his face.
William Sidebottom’s heart transplant is failing him. He was admitted to Riley Hospital for Children last week, the day before his 10th birthday.
His parents say his new request is a welcome distraction for likely the months of waiting ahead.
Two months ago, a hospital in Charlotte North Carolina told William and his parents there was nothing they could do.
“They told us to take him home, give him a good Christmas,” said Jay.
William got his heart transplant three years ago. A routine procedure last summer discovered problems and doctors had to put in a stent.
“How do you console a 9-year-old that finds out they’re not going to be alive much longer?” asked Jay Lowery, William’s stepfather.
For William and his parents Jay and Jennifer Lowery, about the most effective method seems to be getting Christmas cards. A family friend put out the request when William was hospitalized in North Carolina around the holidays and strangers all over the world responded.
Jay showed News 8 a photo of William opening up the very first card he received.
“This is Day 1,” he said.
No one knew at that point what was about to happen.
“Overnight we were getting millions of cards,” said Jennifer Lowery.
Now, the family continues to request cards, but this time, they are asking for Valentine’s Day cards.
William started getting four deliveries a day, including two from the Postal Service. The family had to start making trips almost daily to buy bins to hold all the cards in.
“It was insanity,” remembers Jennifer. “We didn’t have a house for awhile.”
“You opened the living room door, it was cards from the living room door all the way through the kitchen,” adds Jay.
But more important than the paper and the handwritten messages.. was the result. It provided a welcome distraction for William.
“Will has this smile, he just has this smile that’s infectious,” said Jennifer.
And the cards work to bring that smile back.
“Definitely,” she said. “It definitely makes him feel better. It worked on all of us, not just him.”
In the middle of it all, there came news of an even more welcome diversion.
Riley Hospital for Children was among the hospitals who heard about William’s diagnosis and reached out with a new plan for treatment.
The family moved back to Southport last month to be close to family and doctors.
“Indiana is home,” said Jennifer.
“They’re the best so here we are,” said Jay.
Riley is the place William was born and had his first heart surgery when he was just 10 days old.
Some Christmas cards now decorate outside his door and around the room.
No one is sure how long this hospital stay will be, perhaps 3 months, possibly 6 months, maybe more as William works to get on the transplant list and then wait for his heart.
“It was so much fun the first time, why not do it again?” said Jennifer with a laugh.
“Whether he gets 10 or hopefully not 5 million while he’s at the hospital, no matter how many he got, it would mean a lot to me because it gives him that distraction,” said Jay.
The month of February is Congenital Heart Disease Awareness month, so Jay and Jennifer also wanted to shine a light on that cause.
William has hyperplastic left heart syndrome, which basically means he was born with half a heart. If you would like to send him a card, you can write to him here:
William Sidebottom / Room 3111
705 Riley Hospital Dr
Indianapolis, IN 46202
The hospital also has a free digital postcard service where you can design your own card and then have it delivered to his room. Click here for more information.
If you’re looking for inspiration for a card to send, William likes cars, sports and anything outdoors.
He also got some gifts and games in the last few months which he donated to other kids. Jay and Jennifer said it was one of the highlights of this entire experience.