The Weight of Waiting

Mia Godinez, Trends Co-Editor

Brayden Oliver always knew this day could come. The Chanute High School senior, who has lived with a heart condition since birth, is left with nothing to do but wait on a call for a new heart.


“Before, all that was on my mind were my plans after high school,” said Brayden. “But after receiving the news that I was in need of a heart transplant, my whole focus shifted.”


At six weeks old, Brayden was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a recessive genetic disease where the muscle of the heart gets thicker overtime and the fibers of the heart weave together rather than laying flat. The fibers then start to grow and block the passage of blood flow through the heart overtime. 


“My condition really began affecting my life from third grade onward,” said Brayden. “Due to my heart thickening I was not allowed to participate in any physical activities, which was the biggest damper it put on me.”


As a fourth grader, Brayden had a cardiovascular myectomy procedure, an open-heart surgery where his heart was thinned to remove some of the heart’s obstructions and relieve the disease for the time being. An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), was also inserted during the procedure to monitor and regulate potentially fast and life-threatening electrical problems with the heart.


“Living life this way is hard at times, but I have learned to adjust to routine doctor visits, medications, and any other obstacles my condition throws at me,” said Brayden.


Throughout 2021, Brayden faced multiple challenges including liver dysfunction and an ICD replacement. However, toward the end of the year, he had a few heart arrhythmias that set off alarm bells for his heart specialist team at Children’s Mercy in St. Louis, MO. It was this incident that kicked off Brayden’s heart transplant journey. 


“We always knew that we could get to this point at sometime,” said Stephanie Oliver, Brayden’s mother. “We had just always hoped that it was a long way down the road.”


The heart transplant is some-what similar to his previous open-heart procedure, his chest will be opened, he will be put on a bypass machine, and then instead of being thinned, his heart will be exchanged for a new one. 


While the Olivers are unsure when exactly the heart transplant will take place, Brayden has been moved up on the waitlist to a 1B, meaning that he could undergo the procedure within the next year or so. 


“It’s all really, really scary,” said Stephanie. “We just try to remember to cherish every day for what it is.”


Brayden is no stranger to sharing and embracing his story to those around him. He has told the majority of his friends about most, if not all of his medical history. Senior Bradyn Hilderbrand was first made aware of Brayden’s condition in 2021.


“When I first found out about everything I felt sorry for him, but it didn’t change my outlook on him,” said Hilderbrand. “He was still a person and it makes him no different.”


Hilderbrand, as well as many other students at CHS, want Brayden to know that he has both friends and family supporting him and that he should not lose hope during this life-changing process, because he can do anything with the support of those around him.


“It’s definitely not a secret,” said Stephanie. “He has always been able to be pretty open and easy-going about things.


Both the CHS staff and student-body will continue their support toward Brayden by donating all proceeds from the Ecology Day auction to the Oliver family. CHS Stugo sponsor Karen Graham also plans to set up a donation box at prom, which will be open to anyone attending grand march on April 23. 


“This is an issue that is so close to home, we just want the family to know that we are here to support them,” said Graham.


Once the transplant is complete, Brayden will no longer have the disease or the ICD that is located in his shoulder. Within the first year of the transplant, there will be multiple appointments, check-ups, and different medicines, but if everything checks out, he will finally be able to live a life without restrictions. 


“Being able to remove all of my past limitations is very exciting,” said Brayden. “I am also looking forward to having the opportunity to extend my life.”