By Cheril Vernon

Messenger Copy Editor

HOUSTON – For the first time in his life since his birth on May 1, heart-transplant recipient Matthew Easley saw the outside of Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston on Wednesday, Oct. 25.

Matthew, son of Stephen and Megan Easley of Crockett, will turn 6 months old on Nov. 1. Matthew’s mom Megan is a 2010 graduate of Grapeland High School.

“We are still pinching ourselves and soaking it all in. We thought this day would never come. The hospital became the new norm for us and we haven’t got use to being home yet. It’s been great. He’s eating a little better, sleeping a little better and we are sleeping a little better,” Stephen Easley told The Messenger in a phone interview from Houston on Friday, Oct. 27. “On Oct. 25, they discharged us from the hospital. We are now at our temporary Houston home until at least the third biopsy. If it looks good, we can come home to Crockett. We hope to be home by Christmas, but we will just have to see how it pans out.”

Joe and Linda Easley of Crockett hold their grandchild, Matthew Easley, after the infant was released from the hospital on Oct. 25.

Matthew spent the first two weeks of his life in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). While in NICU, Matthew was diagnosed with a rare heart disease, Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome with Pulmonary Atresia and Ticuspid Stenosis.

Prior to the heart transplant surgery on Oct. 3, Matthew was subjected to daily health-monitoring tests, confined to a ventilator to assist his breathing and had several surgeries performed on him, including his first open heart surgery at 12 days old, to place a shunt from his lungs to his heart to allow for oxygen flow.

Today, Matthew is enjoying being at home ‑ no longer hooked up to machines or wires except for a nasogastric tube that goes in through his nose to his stomach.

“He enjoyed his car ride home – looking out the window. He’s never been outside of the building. He’s enjoying it,” Stephen said. “He’s done really well. He has nine medications he has to take including three anti-rejection medicines. Some of that he will get weaned off of a little, but a few he will take for the rest of his life. The NG (nasogastric) tube helps with his feedings, if he doesn’t eat enough or if we need to get medications through it.”

Grandparents Joe and Linda Easley of Crockett, along with other family members are ecstatic that he is finally out of the hospital – and available for multiple hugs, kisses and cuddles.

“We feel fantastic Matthew’s out of the hospital,” Joe Easley told The Messenger on Friday, Oct. 27. “It’s been a burden for him to be there so long. It’s been financially astronomical just for them to eat and not be at home where they could cook their own food. We are so grateful for all of the prayers and support from Houston County, especially from Roger and Dorothy, who have allowed them to stay in a garage apartment there in Houston until they can come back home.”

The grandparents – who have went to visit about twice a week while Matthew has been in the hospital, brought a special family member with them on their visit this week to see Matthew at their temporary Houston home.

“My parents brought our Yorkie to us. His name is Buster. Matthew really likes playing with him. They are getting along. Buster will bark sometimes when he starts crying, but he will get used to it,” Stephen said. “Buster lays by beside him a lot when we are playing him on the bed. He’s like a protective big brother.”

On Tuesday, Oct. 31, the Easleys will take their son in for his second biopsy since his heart transplant.

The following week, he will go to a clinic appointment.

Baby Matthew Easley, who will be six months old on Nov. 1, lays in his baby bed at his temporary home in Houston. Matthew was released from Texas Children’s Hospital on Oct. 25, where he resided from the time he was born on May 1 due to a heart defect. The infant received a heart transplant on Oct. 3.

“The physical therapists and occupational therapists said he’s made great progress,” Stephen said. “He does have to wear a surgical mask when we go anywhere and we have to keep everything sanitized and all of that, as clean as possible so he doesn’t get any infections or get sick.”

On Halloween, Matthew will get to dress up just like every other young child, thanks to the hospital.

“They brought him a little doggy costume. He’s going to look like a little Dalmatian. They gave one to every kid that’s a patient. It was very nice,” Stephen said. “We also got him a Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle costume, so he will get to wear two costumes this year.”Matthew’s parents haven nothing but praise for Texas Children’s Hospital for taking such good care of their child prior to and after his heart transplant.

“They are top notch. They are the number one heart center for pediatrics in the whole country, they truly are. We are thankful for the help and care we received from them for Matthew. They know what they are doing. They have got some of the best nurses we have ever met,” Stephen said.

Despite the financial hardships the couple has went through during their nearly six-month stay at the hospital, they are grateful their son is home, safe and happy.

“We had to buy food during our stay and pay for a few of his medicines out of pocket. Even though they validated our parking,  the parking lots were full during the week, so we ended up having to pay $13 a day for parking sometimes, which adds up fast,” Stephen said. “But we are pushing through. The good Lord is taking care of us.”

The Easleys hope once Matthew’s third biopsy gets a good report at the end of the year, that they can return to Crockett.

“We’re just thrilled and can’t wait to get him home (to Crockett). My dad has been working his tail off to get our house done by then,” Stephen said. “We hopefully will have the house finished by Thanksgiving.”

To see additional photos and to keep up with Matthew’s progress, visit the Miracle for Matthew Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/miracleformattheweasley/