Nolan’s Journey

“The Ronald McDonald House makes it work for us. It lets your family be who they are.” – Bill, RMHC Dad 

When Sumar Wightman was 28 weeks pregnant with her third child, Nolan, her doctor noticed a complication with his heart.  “It was a very tough time,” said her husband, Bill.

But through a fetal intervention procedure, Nolan’s physician successfully opened his heart valve before he was even born. The day after his birth, he had one more procedure and was quickly able to go home. For the next two years, Nolan had follow-up appointments with specialists and was doing very well. He did not even need medication.

Just before Nolan’s third birthday, it was determined that it was time for him to have one more heart procedure. Because his condition was aortic valve stenosis, an aortic leaf reconstruction called the Ozaki procedure was recommended.  The family traveled from their North Carolina home to Boston for the surgery, expecting to be able to return to their normal lives rather quickly. However, immediately following the surgery, Bill and Sumar were told that Nolan was in heart failure. They were taken completely by surprise. Nolan spent the next six weeks in the hospital. Then, they heard the words that their son needed a heart transplant.  “We had no idea, we would be going down this path,” said Bill.

With not much time to think about it, Bill and Sumar chose Pittsburgh for Nolan’s care. They knew not only that it was the best place for him medically but it was also the place where they could be together.  “The family has to be together,” said Bill.

In November 2019, Nolan went into the hospital to prepare for his transplant. His parents and big brother and sister, Logan and McKinley, went next door to stay at Ronald McDonald House Pittsburgh.

For the Wightmans, staying at the Ronald McDonald House allows them to be a family. “While one of us is with Logan and McKinley, the other can be with Nolan. And with just a push of an elevator button, we can switch,” said Bill.

At the Ronald McDonald House, Logan and McKinley keep very busy. Logan is home-schooled and both have made friends with the other siblings in the House.  “This would not be possible if we were not here,” added Bill.

They even got to attend a Penguins game with their new friends. “Sharing that Penguins experience with others who are in the same situation was uplifting for everybody,” said Bill.

Nearly six months after their arrival in Pittsburgh, Nolan had his transplant. “He is doing amazing,” said Bill. Just two weeks after the procedure, his feeding tube was removed and he began eating on his own. And according to Bill, Nolan is getting stronger every day in physical and occupational therapy. They anticipate he will be out of the hospital and able to join them soon.

“He is so resilient and such a conqueror,” said Bill.

The Wightman family never expected to be so far from home for so long. But being together makes their journey possible. “We will never forget how the Ronald McDonald House was there for us,” said Bill.