Three months ago, James Patterson was a healthy 13-year-old Dayton teenager who loved playing football with his friends and twin brother, Jacob. Now, he's resting in a Salt Lake City hospital, waiting for a new heart.
Patterson started feeling sick about a month ago, according to Suzie Moore, a family friend who is organizing a fundraiser for the Patterson family this Sunday.
Doctors thought he had the flu, but he didn't get better. A week before Thanksgiving, an X-ray showed he had a dangerously enlarged heart. He was flown to Reno, and then to Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City.
He's been through multiple operations, and is now hooked up to a heart pump. Patterson's family hopes that the 13-year-old doesn't need a transplant. But his condition is serious enough that he was placed on the heart transplant list, and must stay in Salt Lake City in case an organ becomes available.
"We are hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst," said Michael Escobedo, James's uncle. "Hopefully the heart will be able to repair itself. His heart is like in neutral with the pump running."
Escobedo said his nephew is awake, sitting up and moving around, and starting a therapy program.
"They just need his body to get better before he can accept the transplant," Moore said.
This isn't James's first brush with death. Last fall, he came down with a serious staph infection that left him hospitalized for three months.
Shortly after recovering from his infection scare in October 2007, his mother, Michelle Patterson, died suddenly of a heart attack. She was 34 years old.
James and his twin brother Jacob, brother Carlos and sister Sarah were left to live with their grandmother, Virginia Patterson. She is now in Salt Lake City to be with James, while Escobedo came from his home in Montana to help take care of James' siblings.
According to Escobedo, between waiting for the transplant and recovery, James might be away from home for 10 months or more.
But the residents in Dayton won't let James forget about his home town. They have organized a spaghetti dinner and silent auction fundraiser for the Patterson family at Dayton Elementary School starting at 4 p.m. Sunday. Items for the silent auction include a Wolf Pack football helmet, and a softball, bat, glove and shoes donated and signed by USA Olympic Softball team member Jessica Mendoza. Organizers are also raffling a Nintendo Wii game console at the dinner. The tickets are $5 each.
They also set up a bank account at Well Fargo to benefit James and the Patterson family. The account number 9662419648.
"Everybody has been so great here in Dayton," Escobedo said. "It's just overwhelming."