By Cheril Vernon

Messenger Copy Editor

CROCKETT – It might be the best Christmas present they have ever received.

Crockett couple Stephen and Megan Easley were able to take their baby home to Houston County for the first time on Dec. 26 – just one day after Christmas.

Baby Matthew Easley was born May 1, 2017 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, and received a heart transplant on Oct. 3, 2017.

“It’s nice being back home,” Stephen Easley said during a visit with his family – including Baby Matthew –  to The Messenger office in Grapeland on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

Matthew, who will turn 9 months old on Feb. 1, first saw the outside of the hospital when he was released on Oct. 25, more than five months after he was born. Because of the heart transplant, his family had to remain in the Houston area until Matthew passed his third biopsy test in late December.

“His biopsies have been good – no rejection the last two times,” Stephen said.

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 a happy, active baby, who loves to smile, hold toys and make googly-baby noises – no longer hooked up to machines or wires that made up the first part of his life.

Grandparents Joe and Linda Easley of Crockett, along with other family members are ecstatic that he is finally back in Houston County – and available for multiple hugs, kisses and cuddles.

“We appreciate all the prayers and support we have received from the people of Houston County. It helped them tremendously. They are still trying to catch up financially but at least they are back home,” Joe Easley said. “I turned a metal building into a two-bedroom house for them. I’m still working on finishing it up.”

According to his most recent Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) report, Baby Matthew’s social skills are normal.

“Some of his motor skills are at six or seven months, but that is par for the course,” Matthews’s father Stephen said.

Matthew will be evaluated by ECI every three months, and physical therapy sessions will be set up soon to help improve his motor skills.

“He likes toys with lights. He’s always grabbing for our phones,” his grandfather Joe Easley joked.

Due to the transplant, Baby Matthew is currently on 10 medications, many that he may have to take for the rest of his life. He also has several check-ups and appointments to keep his health intact.

“The good thing is for the minor stuff we can now go to appointments in The Woodlands, instead of having to deal with the Houston traffic,” Stephen said.

The family has nothing but praise for Texas Children’s Hospital for taking such good care of Matthew  prior to and after his heart transplant during their five-month stay at the hospital.

“It’s the greatest hospital – you couldn’t ask for better,” Joe Easley said. “They do whatever they can to make you feel comfortable.”

Matthew’s mom agreed.

“Especially if it’s heart-related, they are No. 1 in heart. When we go back to the hospital for appointments, the nurses want to see him and hold him. They are like family now to us,” Megan said.

With flu season still hitting hard across Texas, Matthew’s parents are keeping their young son home as much as possible to prevent infections.

“He does have to wear a surgical mask when we go anywhere and we have to keep everything sanitized, so we use a lot of hand sanitizer. More than anything, we are trying to avoid flu season,” Stephen said.

The Easleys are overwhelmingly grateful someone’s gift of life enabled their son to have a heart transplant.

“That’s our precious grandchild and we are so thankful,” Joe Easley said. “But it does weigh on us. We would love in the future to have something to do with the donor family, or let them meet Matthew, if they were interested.”

Both sides of the family have worked together to help Stephen and Megan with Baby Matthew.

“It’s all about family sticking together, helping family and pitching in and doing what has to be done – and getting spoiled by everyone,” Joe Easley said. “We are very proud to have our miracle.”

The family joked about the biggest “spoiler,” Baby Matthew’s great-grandfather, Michael Scanlon, who lives in Liverpool, NY.

“Spoiled is an understatement,” Megan joked.

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