1-year-old's birthday photo shoot reaches out to family of his heart donor

PHOTO: Titus Sickles of Toledo, Wash., poses at his first birthday photo shoot.PlayLittle Hearts Photos by Sarah Masten
WATCH 1-year-old's birthday photo shoot tries to find the family of his heart donor

Titus Sickles was close to dying before a heart transplant saved his life when he was just 3 months old.

When Titus turned one in January, his parents marked the milestone the way a lot of parents do, with a photo shoot.

Titus’s photographs, though, had a bigger purpose: trying to find the family of the infant whose heart saved his life.

PHOTO: Titus Sickles of Toledo, Wash., poses at his first birthday photo shoot. Little Hearts Photos by Sarah Masten
Titus Sickles of Toledo, Wash., poses at his first birthday photo shoot.

“My child has their child’s heart beating inside of him and he’s thriving and it’s all because of them,” said Titus’s mom, Rena Sickles. “I’d love to thank them in person.”

(MORE: Mom of two reveals to police officer on Facebook that she's giving him her kidney)

Due to privacy rules, Sickles and her husband, parents of three sons in addition to Titus, know nothing about the family who chose to have their child be an organ donor.

PHOTO: Rena Sickles of Toledo, Wash., holds her 1-year-old son Titus, a heart transplant survivor. Little Hearts Photos by Sarah Masten
Rena Sickles of Toledo, Wash., holds her 1-year-old son Titus, a heart transplant survivor.

Rena Sickles, of Toledo, Washington, found out when she was 18 weeks pregnant that Titus would be born with half a heart. When he was born on Jan. 8, 2018, he also had dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart fails to pump blood effectively.

The family put their lives on hold while they waited for a donor heart for Titus. He began to decline rapidly right before the transplant came through in April, according to Sickles.

“I hadn’t really had any meltdowns but I just broke down and said, ‘He’s about done fighting,’” she recalled. “[My husband and I] agreed that if he was done, we were going to let him go. We couldn’t watch him suffer anymore.”

PHOTO: Titus Sickles, of Washington, underwent a heart transplant at three-months-old. Rena and Andy Sickles
Titus Sickles, of Washington, underwent a heart transplant at three-months-old.

“The call for the transplant came the next day,” Sickles said.

(MORE: Mom of 2 donates kidney to single mom of 2 after seeing flyer at son's Taekwondo studio)

Titus underwent a four-hour heart transplant at Seattle Children’s Hospital on April 7, 2018. There was only a one-hour lapse from the time the heart was taken out of the donor's body and transplanted to Titus, so Sickles believes the donor family is likely local.

PHOTO: Titus Sickles underwent a heart transplant at Seattle Childrens Hospital. Rena and Andy Sickles
Titus Sickles underwent a heart transplant at Seattle Children's Hospital.

“I figure if we get the picture out, maybe the parents or grandmother or an aunt or uncle will see it,” Sickles said. “Even if they don’t reach out to us, maybe they’ll see it and get a little healing from that.”

Sickles also hopes the photos raise awareness of organ donation.

PHOTO: Titus Sickles of Toledo, Wash., 1, front, poses with his three older brothers. Little Hearts Photos by Sarah Masten
Titus Sickles of Toledo, Wash., 1, front, poses with his three older brothers.

Titus is now a happy, healthy 1-year-old who can keep up with his brothers and loves to laugh and dance, according to Sickles.

“We were so close to burying our child and organ donation is the absolutely only reason he’s still here,” she said.