By: KDKA-TV News Staff
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The 68th annual KDKA UPMC Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund Benefit Show is this Thursday, Dec. 16, and this week we’re featuring patients who’ve benefitted from the care they received at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.READ MORE: AAA Recommends Periodic Car-Washing To Avoid Expensive Rust Damage
As you drive across the Bloomfield Bridge, you’ll currently see 1-year-old Caleb Fritz on a billboard with UPMC Children’s sitting on the hill behind it. Much of his first year was spent at the hospital.
His parents, Carly and Patrick, learned at 20 weeks that he would be born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. It means half of his heart doesn’t work.
“Everything totally changed. The outlook totally changed when we talked to the doctor and the team at Children’s,” Patrick said.
Caleb was born 5 weeks premature. And for the next seven months, UPMC Children’s was his home.
He had his first open-heart surgery at 8-days-old, his second at three months and his third at six months. Between his first and second surgeries, he had four strokes.
“I would say every surgery we thought, ‘This is it, we’re not going to make it,'” said Carly.
But doctors at UPMC Children’s were confident Caleb was going to pull through.
“It wasn’t ‘if we’ll figure out what’s going on.’ It was ‘when we’re going to figure it out,'” Carly said.
Caleb’s first holiday season was spent at the hospital.
“I think our older son, Owen, was just at the age where he was starting to understand Christmas and everyone being together. I think it was really difficult for him and really hard on him,” Carly said.
Hospital staff became family. They sent gifts to Owen and put up a tree in Caleb’s room. They offered meals to the family and provided a shoulder to lean on.READ MORE: Pittsburgh Weather: Southern Areas Could See More Snow On Wednesday Night
“At the time, it seemed little. But those things, that kind of support for families, cannot really be measured,” Patrick said.
On May 18 of this year, Caleb finally went home.
“Every day is still terrifying, but he has overcome so much. He’s doing amazing,” said Carly.
They credit the doctors at UPMC Children’s for making the transition to home life easy.
“I think what’s amazing is that we were more prepared than we expected to be because the team at Children’s allowed us to be so involved in his care from day one,” said Patrick.
Caleb still has a fight ahead of him. He still has to be fed with the help of a machine, and he’ll need another surgery in the next few years. But compared to this time last year, he’s already climbed mountains.
“We made it through and we take it day by day. We don’t know what the future has to hold, but we’re very fortunate to be here,” Carly said.
Now, in just a few days, Caleb will celebrate his first Christmas at home.
“It’ll be nice to be able to wake up on Christmas morning this year and to not have to rush to open gifts with Owen and then run out the door,” said Carly.
“To be able to have the whole family together this year is probably going to be very emotional,” Patrick said.
Caleb and countless others are alive today, because of the care they received at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. And the Free Care Fund at UPMC Children’s has helped so many families afford that medical care over the years.
Please help us keep that fund going! Click here to learn how to donate to the Free Care Fund.MORE NEWS: Man In Critical Condition After Shooting In Pitcairn
Join us this Thursday, Dec. 16, beginning at 4 p.m. for the 68th annual KDKA Children’s Hospital Free Care Fund Benefit Show.