Aaron Tanner has an imagination for super heroes and space villains. He says he has seen and owns one of the Star Wars movies.
You would never know it by looking at him, but Aaron is in failing health. He needs a dual-transplant of a heart and kidney, in order to survive.
And while Mark and Elizabeth Tanner pray for a miracle for their youngest son, for now, all they can do it wait.
"Seems like it has been forever, but it's actually been maybe about four or five months since we found out he is in kidney and heart failure," says Elizabeth. "So we've been waiting for a good two months to get to the UCLA Medical Center, for Aaron to be listed, and have his heart transplant."
"The reason that we're here is that our son Aaron was born with a congenital heart condition. After he had his three open heart surgeries, we found out that he went into kidney failure," says Mark. "UCSF where he was at, they did not deal with high risk, multi-organ transplants and they referred us off here down to the Ronald Reagan Medical Center and that's where we're at now, waiting for Aaron to have organs to become available."
Elizabeth takes Aaron to dialysis for three hours, four days a week. She manages his daily intake of 14 medications.
"He starts off the morning with probably about 10 medications at 8 a.m. and it goes from there. He does them every time he eats, he has about three different medications he has to take," says Elizabeth.
Aaron's extreme medical needs thrust the Tanners into a financial storm. And after he receives his transplants, Aaron will take medication for the rest of his life and have regular doctor's appointments.
The Tanners cannot afford to pay outright and they are told they make too much to get the financial support they need.
"When Aaron had his first open heart surgery, we saw bills as large as $1 million. You know, every surgery he's had, he's had three open heart surgeries and all of them have exceeded that. We are probably solely responsible for $200,000 or $300,000 in medical bills right now," says Mike. "I'm worrying about how am I going to keep the roof over our heads, are we going to be homeless next week?"
"It's difficult on the family, I mean obviously we have two other children. It's grandma at home that's affected by it, it's my brother-in-law, Scott, and my sister-in-law, Kaylena -- they're helping out. They have all put their lives on hold for us. There are a lot of other people affected by this as well," says Mike.
Life is as normal as possible for Aaron, living in Los Angeles, away from home. On a day off from his dialysis, Elizabeth took Aaron for a wash and blow dry.
As normal as getting Aaron's hair washed, now organ donation is a part of the Tanners' daily lives.
"For Aaron to live, Aaron needs a heart and a kidney. There's no way around it, there's... nothing is going to change, no medication, nothing is going to change. He does need it," says Mark.
"Before this, I would have never thought about it, it would have never occurred to me to sign up to be an organ donor or to be a live organ donor, which you can also be. But now since we've been thrust into this, it's something that is really needed. Aaron can't live without this donation. He's going to need a donation from such a small group of available people that it's something that we need to all try to think about," says Elizabeth.
When asked about feeling heart break and why they already know it Mark replies, "Because our son Ethan passed away four years ago."
Ethan Tanner died as a toddler from a congenital heart condition that went undiagnosed.
"When Aaron was born and at 10 days old, they did the open heart surgery and everything went really well, went better than expected. And unexpectedly our 4-year-old son passed away," explains Mark.
When asked what the hardest part was Elizabeth replies, "It's the fear of the unknown, the fear of not knowing when it's going to happen, what's going to happen when he goes through this transplant, being so far away from home, what it's going to be like afterwards, for us."
"I can't wait for the day that we drive Aaron out of the hospital to where we pack up the car and we go home. Just have our normal, normal life back to where everybody is back in the home together," says Mark.
"I look forward I think to the phone call, that it's going to happen, that the organs are here and Aaron can have his transplant. And I look forward to him just being okay and healed and better. Seeing him run and walk and play and doing all the fun things again," says Elizabeth.
If you would like to donate to the Aaron Tanner foundation you can follow or click on the information below.
The Aaron Tanner Foundation
c/o Ecc Bank of Agriculture
2251 Balfour Road
Brentwood, CA 94513
Or to donate by paypal go to: www.saveabrokenheart.com