For the past few months, one of our local families has taught the Nonahood the value of family, courage and keeping the faith. In late May, Drew Hazlett was enjoying his last days of school and getting ready for all the events related to his graduation from Lake Nona High School. A few days before, Drew and his family became sick. Thinking the respiratory virus had worsened or developed into pneumonia, Kim Hazlett, Drew’s mother, felt the strong need to have Drew check up on his health. His family now credits Dr. Maki at Absolute Urgent Care with saving Drew’s life. During that visit, Dr. Maki was able to identify Drew’s heart was enlarged. She referred him to Florida Hospital Orlando immediately.
Here, Drew endured a variety of tests for several days, while the family nervously awaited results and searched for answers. Eventually, they received a diagnosis of myocarditis, a condition marked by inflammation and damage of the heart muscle, most probably caused by a viral infection.
The condition prevented Drew from attending his long-awaited high school graduation. This is when the outpouring of support for Drew began. His teachers and friends could not bear the thought of Drew missing the graduation he worked so hard to earn, so through coordination between Lake Nona High School and Florida Hospital, on May 24th, a graduation for Drew was held in his hospital room. While his classmates sat in the arena, Drew’s name was read on the stage as he donned his cap and gown. His teacher, Mr. Smith, was in Drew’s room to hand-deliver his diploma, while livestreaming the graduation surrounded by his cheering family. The following day, Florida Hospital threw Drew a special graduation party complete with balloons, cake and guests.
After 11 days in the hospital, Drew was released with the plan of controlling his condition with medication and monitoring his reaction to treatment. However, on June 15th, Drew’s condition worsened unexpectedly. While in a hospital room again, Drew crashed and a group of dedicated medical staff rushed to save his life. To save him, an emergency open heart surgery was needed. The intervention resulted in an ECMO, a piece of equipment to pump and oxygenate blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest. Later, Drew was placed on a BiVAD, a device that assists cardiac circulation, to partially or completely replace the function of a failing heart.
Since that day, Drew has remained in the hospital, now waiting for a life-saving heart transplant. August 15th marked his 2 month anniversary at Florida Hospital, a day in which he received a special hospital badge usually reserved for staff. Drew continues to recover from his open heart surgery beautifully. He walks at least a mile every day, does physical therapy and acts like his normal, funny, sweet self for the most part. He remains on heart pumps in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, while he waits for the perfect heart.
The road has not been easy for Drew and his family. The Hazletts have dealt with pain, anxiety, fear and uncertainty. In addition to being Drew’s caregivers, Matt and Kim, his parents, care for their two daughters Kacie and Mackenzie with the help of family and friends. With both of them fully focused on their family at this difficult time, they each have had to put their self-managed businesses on hold, which has added a financial stress to their situation.
Yet through it all, the Hazletts have remained strong, courageous and most of all faithful. Their spirit and attitude make it so easy to see why the community support has been so unwavering. Jackie, Drew’s favorite night nurse says, “Drew and his entire family are selfless and kind. They are always willing to do whatever it takes to help Drew get back home. It is an inspiration to watch this young man and family band together and tackle the road ahead.”
The outpouring of support from our community has been a joy to see. Friends, family and neighbors have rallied behind the Hazletts, providing meals, donations, and prayers. Several events and fundraisers have been organized including bowling and poker tournaments and fundraisers at local restaurants. Teenagers have dedicated music performances to their schoolmate and prayers are continuously requested at social gatherings, Bible studies and church. Friends, classmates, and teachers visit Drew to bring gifts, smiles and encouragement.
Drew’s story has spread, reaching sports celebrities such as Tim Tebow who called and prayed with him, and the Orlando City Soccer Club who visited and even made signals in honor of Drew when making goals.
Matt and Kim, Drew’s parents, are full of gratitude, “We want to take this opportunity to thank our family, friends and community for your thoughts, prayers, donations, gifts and meals during this difficult time. We couldn’t do this without all your support. Drew is such an inspiration to so many and we couldn’t be more proud of him. He is the strongest person we know. We are still waiting for his heart transplant and want to raise awareness of the importance of giving the gift of life through organ donation. A big thank you to LNHS and Florida Hospital Orlando for helping us pull off a special graduation ceremony for Drew while he was in the hospital. Many thanks to his amazing medical team for all they do for Drew and our family. We are abundantly blessed!”
Most strikingly, while he has battled this condition, Drew has been a constant source of strength and positivity for his family and medical team. So while he has a full medical team rallying to care for his body, Drew has been caring for their spirit.
Those who care for Drew have nothing but words of praise. “Taking care of Drew is an absolute honor. He is the most caring person I have ever met and always greets me with a ‘Hi, how are you doing.’ The question should be how are YOU doing Drew? He keeps us all going with his positive attitude and outlook. I feel special that I am one of the nurses that gets to help him on his journey,” shares Drew’s nurse Skye.
Jenn, ECMO Specialist says “Drew has on many occasions prayed for his neighbors in the unit when he knows they are struggling or very sick. While his friends enjoyed beach days and planning heading off to college this summer, Drew has been in the hospital fighting for his life. He is without a doubt one exceptionally special young man, and I know I speak for the entire staff when I say we look forward to seeing him recover and see what other big plans God has in store for him.”
Anna, a perfusionist on the team shares, “Drew is a blessing to everyone he meets, and I thank God every day for introducing me to this exceptional young man who shows love and respect to every person who crosses his path, even in the most extreme circumstances.”
The way Drew has approached his situation has also shaped some of the staff’s outlooks on life. “This weekend I set an alarm to get up and watch the sunrise and my family said I should sleep in. But I knew that I was afforded an opportunity Drew would love to have, but can’t leave the hospital. So in that spirit, I got up and watched the sunrise in his honor and prayed for him” shares Jenn.
While they wait, the Hazletts continuously pray not only for Drew, but for comfort for the donor’s family. They would like to raise awareness of the importance of registering as an organ donor and how it can make a difference for thousands of people waiting for life-saving transplants.
Drew has taught us the meaning of the famous quote by Charles R. Swindoll, “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” In the words of Drew, “My motto through this whole journey has been…MINOR SETBACK TO A MAJOR COMEBACK, and that’s how I feel. I stay positive and work hard so that I can once again lead a happy, heathy life. I love and appreciate my medical team for all they do for me. Thank you to everyone for your prayers and support for me and my family”
Although Drew was registered to attend Valencia this fall, his plans for the future have changed. This journey has now sparked an interest in helping others on similar paths. Drew looks forward to traveling to raise awareness and provide support for those facing similar challenges and hopes to open a restaurant with healthy food options for people with cardiac issues on strict diets.
Drew, we have no doubt you will achieve your dreams and the Nonahood stands with you.
Right as this issue was going to print, on the evening of Sunday, August 20th, the Hazletts received the call they had been anxiously waiting. A heart was found for Drew. He was rushed to surgery and at exactly 12:04 a.m. on Monday August 21 st , Drew’s new heart started beating.
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