By JOHN LAW , REVIEW STAFF WRITER | Niagara Falls Review
He thankfully doesn't remember any of it.
What he does remember, though, is that day his life changed at five years old. A nervous family gathered around. A hospital room with a big TV. His doctor telling him things would be OK.
When he woke up, he had a new heart. And his real childhood began.
First on the list? Hockey and soccer. Finally.
"At the beginning, we were kind of hesitant," says dad Bill, an officer with the Niagara Regional Police. "But then again, he had waited so long, we weren't going to hold him back."
Watching his son skate -- such a mundane, every day thing for so many dads -- was like the impossible dream for Bill. Simply seeing his son make it to 10 years old feels like a miracle. He knows how easy things could have gone the other way.
Isaac was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which basically meant he only had half a heart.
It meant several surgeries. For parents Bill and Bonnie, it meant several "draining, stressful years."
In January, 2006, the call he was dreading came: Isaac needed a heart transplant if he was to survive much longer. It required a week at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto to test whether his son's system would accept a new organ.
Could there be anything more nerve-racking for a parent?
"He wouldn't be here right now if he wasn't eligible," Bill says.
On April 17, 2006, Isaac was put on the waiting list. Nine days later his parents got a call at 11 p.m. saying it as time to operate ... a heart had come in.
"My honest reaction? I can't say around him," Bill says with a smile.
Following a two-hour operation the next day and 10 days of recuperation in hospital, Isaac didn't just feel different, he looked different.
"He didn't have a blueish hue to him any more. He had some pink, and he could actually move around."
Not wasting any time, Isaac joined a hockey house league, and has been moving up the ranks ever since.
But he hasn't forgotten why he's here. He developed a bond with his Sick Kids doctor, Joel Kirsh, and has regularly attended the camp Kirsh founded in 2004, Camp Oki. It's Canada's first summer camp for kids with congenital heart disease, and in December Isaac was asked to receive a $1-million cheque on the camp's behalf from the Firkin Group of Pubs.
Don Cherry attended the event, providing one huge hockey thrill. The second came last Sunday when Sick Kids Hospital arranged a skate for him at the Air Canada Centre with some Toronto Maple Leafs players.
"It felt like (the ice) at Fort Erie," says Isaac. "On TV, it looks totally bigger. The experience was great."
Excluded from so much his first five years, Isaac is now just a normal kid on the outside. There's one huge reminder of what he went through, however.
"Show him your scars," his dad says.
Isaac obliges, revealing a massive scar down the middle of his chest and assorted souvenirs of the surgeries he had to endure.
It's also a reminder he's still here, which is all that matters to Bill.
He rarely thought about organ donation before this ordeal. Now, everyone in his family has filled out a donation card.
He realizes someone's else's child died to make it possible. Possible to see his son skate at the Air Canada Centre.
"It just shows people that organ donation works," he says. "It gives how many children a chance to live.
"You hear about it, but you just never think about it. Until it happens."