Lyam James McDonald
Gainesville, FL - "God doesn't give the hardest battles to his toughest soldiers; he creates the toughest soldiers through life's hardest battles".
Our sweet boy, Lyam James McDonald, 1 year and 1 month old, passed away from complications of hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a form of congenital heart disease (CHD), on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at Shands Children's Hospital at the University of Florida. Cremation has taken place and a celebration of life will be held in Montana in the Spring/Summer of this year.
Lyam (LEE-um) James McDonald, a 6th generation McDonald boy, was born December 5, 2019 at the Children's Hospital of Colorado in Aurora. The name Lyam means "strong-willed warrior" and he proved to be the strongest. Lyam was born with a congenital heart defect, HLHS, which was diagnosed at his mother's 20-week ultrasound. Essentially, the left half of his heart did not develop. Without surgery, this condition is fatal within days following birth. His family chose life for him and re-located to Denver, CO as Montana did not have facilities to nurture his care. He underwent his first open heart surgery at 5 days old and was finally discharged from the hospital on January 31, 2020.
He underwent his 2nd open heart surgery on March 26, 2020 and suffered multiple complications. He was placed on ECMO life support on Easter Sunday, underwent a 3rd open heart surgery on April 15, and was placed on continuous dialysis on May 4 due to kidney failure likely caused by ECMO. Even on ECMO, Lyam was thriving, happy, smiling, and doing his best to be a normal baby. On July 30, Colorado Children's Hospital told his parents they had no more options. Therefore, his parents went on a nationwide search to find another hospital. By the grace of God, Shands Children's Hospital answered that call. Lyam was flown from Colorado to Florida on September 3, 2020.
At Shands, he was placed on the heart and kidney transplant list on September 10, and underwent an emergent 4th open heart surgery on September 15th in preparation for a VAD (ventricular assist device) as a bridge to transplant. Complications later arose from a peritoneal dialysis catheter. The catheter caused a bowel perforation which eventually led to Mucormycosis, a fatal fungal infection. The Mucor aggressively spread, despite treatment, compromising his other organs, abdominal wall, and soft tissue which eventually led to multi-organ failure.
Lyam loved growing up with his big sister Kymber, snuggles and talking/cooing with Mom, smiles with Dad, and an excursion to the Denver Zoo. He only experienced 52 days under his families' roof, but that didn't stop him from having the biggest smiles and eyes that would melt your soul.
Nurses and doctors at both institutions fell in love with Lyam and his strong spirit. This mighty warrior's big, bright, blue eyes drew people in as he captured hearts across the country. Overall, he graced us on this earth for 398 days, 346 days in a hospital bed. Though his body failed him, his spirit never wavered and remained steady and strong.
Survivors include his father and mother, Ty and Jyll McDonald and big sister Kymber of Bozeman, MT; grandparents Darrell and Robin Lemmon of Ryegate, MT; Lennie and Marcia McDonald of Geyser, MT; and Amy McDonald and Larry Anderson of Great Falls, MT; 5 uncles and aunts, 6 cousins, and other extended family.
Ty, Jyll, and Kymber want to thank the fleet of faithful prayer warriors in Montana and across the world. Though Lyam was born in an uncertain time, his spirit, soul, and beautiful eyes gave people hope.
Memorials or donations can be made to any Stockman Bank in Montana, 1st Security Bank in Roundup, MT (bank accounts are in Tyrel & Jyll McDonald's name), or through Venmo (@jylllemmonmcdonald or @TyandJyll). Future updates can be found at the facebook group "Baby Mac's Heart Fight".
Ty and Jyll are currently creating a memorial fund with the goal of assisting families with the financial burden of relocation, job loss, travel, and other expenses related to HLHS. HLHS affects 1 in every 4,344 babies born in the US every year (roughly 960 annually). The McDonalds were fortunate to relocate together as a family for all of Lyam's life. For many, financial hardships cause parents/children to live in different places for extended periods of time. The goal of the memorial fund is to keep families together. More information will be released as it comes to fruition.
Judges 6:12 - The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.
Published in Great Falls Tribune from Jan. 22 to Jan. 24, 2021.