By Connie Baggett

May 09, 2010, 10:00AM
Waiting for a son's new heart on Mother's DayView full sizeSusie Ivey with her son Austin Collins at the UAB HTICU. Susie Ivey will spend Mothers Day with her son Austin Collins in the UAB Hospital in the Heart Transplant Intensive Care Unit, waiting for a heart to come available Austin.Just a few weeks ago, 18-year-old Austin Collins was a senior at T.R. Miller High in Brewton, closing in on graduation. Now, with his mother at his bedside, he's in a Birmingham hospital waiting for a heart.

Austin's mother, Susie Collins Ivey, said she really wasn't worried in late March when her son woke up with breathing difficulties.

Just a cold, she recalled telling herself after a trip to the doctor's office.

Then he started having abdominal pain and losing weight, and it all got much worse.

Ivey will spend Mother's Day, and the foreseeable future, watching over her son, and praying and caring for him, as he waits near the top of the transplant list.

Ivey's been there before. Nine years ago, she spent weeks in the hospital with her 14-month-old daughter Anna hoping for a heart for the girl. Anna is now a thriving 10-year-old.

Looking at the strapping Austin, it is hard to tell that a life-threatening condition is unfolding in his chest. He was an offensive lineman for T.R. Miller's football team last fall, and ran track.

"His heart is dilated, or enlarged," his mother said," and the walls of the chambers are really thin. We had no idea, but he's had a problem ongoing for a while. We suspect it might have been caused by a bout with mono he had two years ago."

Randy Winton, youth minister at First Baptist Church in Brewton, described Austin as the hardest worker on mission trips, and spoke of his selfless nature.

Austin "cherishes his role as a big brother to Anna, and he always put himself on the back burner," Winton said.

Waiting for a son's new heart on Mother's DayView full sizeAustin Collins stretches from his wires and IV to gaze into the atrium of the north pavilion of UAB Hospital in Birmingham.Five weeks ago, Austin's symptoms sent him back to the doctor. A surgeon removed his gall bladder, but his blood pressure dropped dramatically. An echocardiogram revealed the enlarged heart.

"We came to the University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center by LifeFlight," Ivey said. "We went back home for a few days, but he didn't do well. We'll be here until he gets a heart."

She said, "I have tremendous faith in God. He will take care of my children. I gave them to God a long time ago, and it is awesome how God works."

Back in Brewton, the town has rallied around the family, holding fundraisers so the elementary school secretary can stay with her son. Some text or send cards, and they keep each other posted by phone or on Facebook, she said.

They say prayers for Austin, and also for the family of the eventual donor.

"God hears all prayers," said Ivey, who years after Anna's transplant was able to meet and thank the parents of the toddler whose heart gave her own daughter life.

"I've asked people to pray for the donor, for that family," she said. "They've got to lose a loved one for me to keep mine, and they need the strength."

She said, "Until you are faced with it, people don't think about organ and tissue donation. Somewhere out there, there is an O negative donor who will be the perfect match for my son. I will be here with him waiting for that."