Piedmont baby needs life-saving heart transplant

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DURHAM, N.C. -- Everything changed for one Piedmont family two weeks ago, when they found out their 3-month-old baby, Jax, has heart disease.

His mother, Mercedes Ingram, and father, Chris Bunton, say he was born a happy, healthy baby and suddenly fell ill.

"There were no warning signs," Ingram said. "He was a little over 2 months and then one day he just started breathing weird. And he was pale white."

A trip to the emergency room led to a diagnosis and Jax was airlifted to Duke Hospital where he has been on multiple tubes and machines ever since.

"This type of heart disease is unknown," Ingram said. "And there's no cure."

The couple moved from Greensboro to Durham to be closer to Jax and is now living in the Ronald McDonald House in Durham. Mother and father trade off shifts throughout the day to watch over their son and monitor any progress.

"One minute you're playing with him and you're like, 'Yes! This is the perfect life,'" Ingram said. "Then the next, he's fighting for his life."

Bunton says he and his wife have not been able to even touch Jax during his time in the hospital, for fear of causing strain on his heart or infecting him with germs.

"It's very difficult because he's lying in bed," Bunton said. "We haven't been able to pick him up and hold him for two weeks."

Jax's only hope is a heart transplant. Ingram and Bunton say Jax is listed as a high priority recipient, but still, there is no guarantee a heart will be found for him. They say if Jax does not receive a new heart within six to nine months, he will likely die.

"What gets us through is just his smile," Bunton said. "For him, we can't give up. That's the mentality we have. Just can't."

The family will live in Durham indefinitely, as the parents say Jax will need frequent checkups at Duke Hospital for the rest of his life if he does get a heart transplant. They say it is common for heart transplant patients to need new hearts every 10-20 years as they grow older.

The family has set up a Facebook page for people to follow Jax's story. They say the kind words and encouraging messages people post there help them get through the grief.

"Facebook has actually been a good outlet for us," Bunton said. "It kind of keeps you sane sometimes. I do a lot of the reading, and talking back to people, and a lot of times it just helps."

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