Heart patient receives 'best Father's Day gift'
Andre Pearson has a drawer full of Father’s day cards from his three daughters tucked away at home in Omaha, but nothing can compare with the Father’s day gift he received this year - being able to
Andre Pearson has a drawer full of Father's Day cards from his three daughters tucked away at home in Omaha, but nothing can compare with the Father's Day gift he received this year — being able to walk his youngest daughter, Alexandra, down the aisle, despite his serious heart condition.
Pearson, a minister at Risen Son Baptist Church in Omaha, Neb., gives all the thanks to God and Mayo Clinic.
Father's Day is on Sunday, but Pearson already has his gift.
"The best Father's Day present that I was able to get was going to my daughter's wedding and walking her down the aisle and giving her away," he said.
Diagnosed in 2012 with congestive heart failure in Omaha, Pearson was deemed "too high risk" to receive a heart transplant, and his kidneys were failing. Wanting a second opinion, Pearson came to Mayo in March, receiving a left ventricular assist device and a temporary right ventricular assist device on April 2, the first operation of its kind at Mayo.
Due to his condition, Pearson was unsure if he would be able to attend Alexandra's wedding in California. His goal was to be healthy enough to travel, so efforts were made to speed up the recovery process, but healing, as Pearson says "takes time."
As the day of the wedding approached, Pearson resigned himself to watching it via a remote video hookup.
"My heart was broke," he said. "Because if you're a father and you have daughters, one of the highlights, other than seeing them grow up, is to see them and walk with them down the aisle at their wedding."
Little did Pearson know his medical team was devising a plan to get him there.
Angela Luckhardt, a VAD coordinator at Mayo, was heartbroken for Pearson. Wanting to help, she questioned why Pearson couldn't go. Safety wasn't the issue. The only obstacles Pearson faced was needing training for the device and being on temporary dialysis. So Luckhardt started making plans.
Approved by Dr. Lyle Joyce, dialysis was scheduled around the trip. Sarah Schettle, another VAD coordinator on the team, volunteered to go with Pearson to assist with medications and the device.
Other arrangements, such as the flight, supplies and extra equipment were handled by the social work funding, the nursing staff and the technicians.
Mike Boysen, who owns the the Mestads Bridal and Formal Wear shop in Barlow Plaza with his wife, came to the hospital and measured Pearson for a tux, providing it free of charge.
Now all that was left was to get Pearson to the ceremony.
Arriving at the venue about 1 a.m. June 6, amid a swarm of camera crews and family members, Pearson surprised Alexandra with his arrival.
"We rolled into the house, and my wife was there, and my two other daughters were there, and I can still see the look on my youngest daughter's face — she just started breaking down and crying," Pearson said. "We all cried. We had some people we didn't even know, crying."
At a beautiful outdoor ceremony, Pearson escorted his daughter down the aisle.
"It was pretty emotional for the bride and groom, and for him." said Schettle, "I'm not even part of his family, and I was tearing up. There were not too many dry eyes in the place."
Though the future isn't certain, it looks optimistic. Currently, back at Mayo finishing his recovery, Pearson is waiting for a facility to take him on while he continues his temporary dialysis. He may be able to leave Mayo within the next month, and he eventually will be evaluated for his eligibility for a heart transplant.
"Mayo Clinic went over and beyond what I think, or what anybody thinks, a hospital would do," said Pearson. "I didn't think that anything like this, for a guy like me, a small-town guy, would go through — first of all get sick like this, and then have the hospital step up, on my behalf, and give me a trip of a lifetime, give me a great Father's Day gift that will be second to none."