When Tiffany Byington of Spring Hill talks about her daughter Kenzie Morris, she speaks of a beautiful 15-month old baby girl with a very big heart. “Kenzie blows kisses to everyone she meets. She is so loving and caring. If she accidentally drops her baby doll, she’ll pick it up, hug it, and make sure it’s okay!” shared Tiffany.
On July 24, Kenzie fell ill and then was taken to Urgent Care on July 27th, where the provider said that she was suffering from a virus. But her condition worsened soon thereafter. “At this point Kenzie wasn’t eating or drinking, she was having one wet diaper a day, she began to “belly breathe” and her face had started to swell a bit,” Tiffany explained. “On July 28th, we took her to the ER near our home, where they said her chest x-ray showed she may have pneumonia in her right lung, but her urine showed she also might have a UTI. We were told to follow up with a children’s hospital in two days if she didn’t get better. On July 29th, Kenzie was in critical condition.”
Tiffany and her husband took Kenzie to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, where multiple tests determined she was suffering from heart failure. She was admitted into the ICU, then moved to the CVICU after her heart echo displayed signs of restrictive cardiomyopathy. “A disease so severe, the only treatment is a heart transplant,” said Byington. “Kenzie has been put on medication to help her heart function normally. She has had multiple blood draws, heart echos, and had even had a biopsy done of her heart. On August 10th, her genetics test came back, confirming her diagnosis of restrictive cardiomyopathy due to a mutation in one of her genes.”
Kenzie needs a new heart and is now being placed on a waitlist for this organ on UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing). She will be moved to the top of the list due to the severity of her condition. “The doctors have tried to wean her off her heart medicine, and eventually taking her fully off of it for 48 hours to see if she could possibly go home while we wait,” said Byington. “Unfortunately, Kenzie’s heart didn’t tolerate not being on the medication and started failing quickly again. So we will have to wait in the hospital until a donor heart becomes available.”
Although Medicaid is covering Kenzie’s medical expenses and her parents are staying at the Ronald McDonald House, her family finds themselves facing a myriad of expenses. Her parents are limited in the amount of hours they can work, as they need to be there for their daughter. They have a two-year-old son currently residing with his grandmother and Tiffany has a 13-year-old daughter who is living with her father temporarily.”This whole situation has come out of nowhere and hit us so hard,” said Tiffany, emotion lining her tones. “We are concerned about keeping up with house payments and paying basic bills.”
For those who wish to help the family, a GoFundMe page has been established on their behalf at https://www.gofundme.com/f/n2vjfa-kenzie-needs-a-new-heart. The average wait time for a heart for a child of Kenzie’s age is 3-5 months, with the postoperative recovery time being a minimum of 4 weeks. Aside from accepting funds, Tiffany has an additional request for the Hernando community. “Please pray for her, her medical team, and the family her donor heart will come from eventually,” she said. “As a mother, it kills me that another family is going to have to endure a terrible loss in order for Kenzie to get a heart.”
And as she navigates her way through a mother’s ultimate nightmare, Tiffany Byington has a dream to push her forward. “I want to go to nursing school,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be a nurse, but now I have a whole new reason: to be the best mother to Kenzie that I can be.”