2 brothers with heart pumps struggle this holiday season
Like most brothers, 18-year-old Tyler and 16-year-old Austin share many things. They both love video games and they love hanging out with friends.
But, they also may be the only known pair of brothers in the country to have both been implanted with Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVAD) which pump blood to a failing heart.
Tyler told Local 2, "I'm thankful that it's here because it gave me a second chance to live. It's a great blessing from God."
Their mother, Jennifer Banks, "It's incredible, scary, scary but incredible. I'm just blessed that I have them. I really am."
Jennifer said as babies, her sons were diagnosed with Becker's Muscular Dystrophy, a debilitating disease that weakens the muscles over time.
Tyler said, "I can just be walking and I'll fall down for no reason."
For the brothers, it's weakened their hearts too. It's also genetic. Jennifer's brothers had it as well. One died 10 years after a heart transplant. The other didn't make it to transplantation.
An uncle and cousins also suffered from the disease.
Knowing their family history weighs heavily on the teens.
Austin explained, "It's a lot to take in and deal with. (Tyler) knows everything that I'm going through."
Tyler added, "I know I got to stay strong for him, but sometimes it's overwhelming."
In 2010, Tyler received the LVAD. Austin had the very same surgery just this summer.
The brothers turned to a team of specialists at The Methodist Debakey Heart and Vascular Center which cared for their family members in the past.
Director of Thoracic Transplantation Dr. Matthias Loebe explained, "The pump allows them to regain as much physical activity as possible as they are not in heart failure anymore."
Still, Dr. Loebe said their muscular dystrophy will continue to progress.
He said, "In these two brothers, it is a bridge to transplant in that they can undergo a transplant down the road if they keep up their functionality and we have a better idea of how quickly the underlying disease progresses."
About three months ago while the family was in the hospital for a procedure, someone broke into their home and stole their Xbox and TV. Their mother has replaced both with a rental, but the fees are proving to be just too expensive."
Jennifer said, "I was devastated to know someone would take things from my babies when that's all they have and my money's fixed anyway."
Tyler added, "We play it every single day, every day. That's all we do is play games."
The family struggles financially. Mom is the sole caregiver, but she has just one wish.
She said, "For my boys to have a good Christmas and be healthy and keep them out of the hospital. That's the biggest present I could get."
Doctors tells us as the brothers' muscle weakness progress, it may make it necessary for them to be considered for a heart transplant in two or three years.