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Sandusky boy in Cleveland waiting for chance to get new heart

Tom Jackson • Jan 18, 2014 at 10:10 AM

Meeting for a cause: Fundraiser to be planned for boy awaiting new heart

Classmates of Emily Appell are organizing a meeting to plan a benefit for Appell’s son, 2-year-old Weston Vassallo, who is awaiting a heart transplant. Classmates Sibyl Dendinger and Kristy Kaufman are spearheading the benefit.

Anyone interested in helping with the plans is asked to meet at the House of Donuts at 2 p.m. Sunday.

For information call Sibyl Dendinger at 419-239-3570.

UPDATE: Weston is being put back on a ventilator as his labored breathing has put his heart into overdrive according to a recent post on Facebook. He will be on a ventilator during the duration of the wait for a new heart. The most recent picture shows Weston before being put being intubated Friday in Cleveland. 


A 2-year-old Sandusky boy, Weston Vassallo, is in a Cleveland hospital as his parents wait for a heart to become available for him to receive a transplant.

Vassallo has battled a serious heart condition since birth and his condition worsened in the last few weeks. Although he's already had three heart operations, he's suffering from heart failure and a transplant is necessary, said his mother, Emily Appell, 33, who lives in Sandusky near Lions Park.

As of today, he is expected to go on the list for patients awaiting a heart transplant, and he's expected to be listed as one of the highest priority patients, she said.

Want to Help?

To make a contribution to help Weston's family, CLICK HERE or simply follow the link at the Weston Vassallo Facebook page.

Cards may be sent to Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital, Room 4306, 9500 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, Ohio, 44195 or to 1403 Winnebago Ave., Sandusky, Ohio, 44870.

It's not clear how long Weston will have to wait for the new heart, which must come from another child. Doctors have told Appell and her fiancé, Anthony Vassallo, 32, that the shortest wait they know about has been three hours, but the longest has been 13 months.

It's currently expected that Weston will have to stay in the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital in Cleveland until a new heart is located, although that could change, Appell said.

"At this point, we are told he needs to stay," she said.

"So it's kind of just a wait and see," Appell said. "At the moment, they are trying to get him stable enough they can take the breathing tube out."

Weston was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a rare congenital heart condition in which the left ventricle of the heart is undeveloped. Essentially, the left side of the heart doesn't function at all, so doctors have to work to make the right side do all of the work, Appell said.

Weston had open heart surgery when he was four days old. Another surgery followed when he was a few months old. 

Both of those surgeries are the normal course of treatment for Weston's condition, but in October, after leakage was found in his tricuspid valve, he unexpectedly had to have another open heart surgery.

Weston was supposed to have another surgery for his condition when he was 3 or 4, but he began appearing puffy and lethargic a few weeks ago and was not playing as much. Tests on Jan. 7 determined he was in heart failure, making a heart transplant necessary.

Appell's aunt, Susan Appell, set up a "Weston Vassallo" Facebook page so that friends can see how Weston is doing; Appell had administrative privileges and has been posting news and pictures to the page to keep everyone up to date. The site was set up only a few days ago but already has more than 1,500 followers. 

Amanda Dunham-Griggs, another member of Appell's family, has set up a website to raise money to help the family with travel and living expenses as they struggle to deal with Weston's condition.

Appell and Anthony Vassallo have three children: A boy, Braden, 5, who is autistic, and a girl, Lola, nine months old, who appears to be in perfect health. Weston has two half sisters Kaitlyn, 11, and Savanna, 7.

Appell and her fiancé were both born and raised in Sandusky and they have relatives here, who have rallied around the couple, taking rotating duty to take care of their other two children.

"We're leaning on them very heavily," Appell said.

The plan is to bring the couple's other children up to a McDonald House in Cleveland on weekends so that the family can be together. Ronald McDonald House Charities provide housing near hospitalized children to aid families struggling with medical issues.


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