Matthew Govostes didn’t go back to school today after a week of school vacation.
A first grader at the Wyman Elementary School, Matthew hasn’t been in school since late January.
That’s because one month ago, Matthew received a new heart.
Matthew’s home now.
Depending on his immune system, he may join his classmates and teacher Nancy Hubbard at the end of March.
Matthew’s parents, Elena and Jason, have known that Matthew had a rare heart defect since Elena was pregnant with him, she told Woburn Patch yesterday afternoon. Structures in his heart called ventricles, which are chambers, were reversed.
Three years ago, in February of 2009, Matthew underwent his first surgery to fix the problem. It didn’t help at first. Then he rallied. But then his heart function declined.
This past July, a team of specialists evaluated Matthew for a heart transplant. First they considered whether his condition could be managed with medicines, according to his mother. They did “a ton of tests,” Elena said.
He became a candidate for a new heart in mid-October. He wasn’t at the top of the list, according to his parents, but high on it because his condition was affecting his growth.
“People said, ‘He looked so good,’” commented Matthew’s dad.
“He felt fine,” Elena said of Matthew. Well enough, she said, to play soccer and Little League baseball.
The family spent time the end of October at Disney World, Elena said, courtesy of the Make a Wish Foundation. Matthew’s favorite rides, she said, were Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted House. He’s “not a roller coaster kid,” she said.
Three months later, on Jan. 28, in the afternoon—“2:03 to be exact,” Elena said—the family got the call that a heart was ready for Matthew. They had four hours to make arrangements at home and get to the hospital.
They got to Children’s Hospital around 5 p.m., Elena said. The surgery started at 2 a.m. It took five hours.
Matthew recovered so well he came home two weeks later.
While he was in the hospital, he and other patients on his floor got a visit from New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski. Gronk even autographed an item for Matthew’s brother, Nathan, 9, a fourth grader at the Wyman School.
Matthew is a “huge” football and hockey fan. Before he went into the hospital for the transplant, the family bought tickets for a Bruins game on Feb. 3. Matthew’s concern about being in the hospital, according to Elena: “I can’t go to the game!”
This past week, Matthew was cleared to play outside his home with his brother and one friend. If he goes beyond that boundary, he has to wear a face mask, Elena explained, to protect his immune system.
Matthew has been in touch with his classmates. He Skyped with them. His schoolmates made him drawings of Valentine-style hearts with good wishes. So did first graders at the Goodyear School.
Once Matthew goes back to school, “He can be a regular kid again,” his mother said.
In the meantime, he’s been playing lots of video games, he said, and doing a little schoolwork.
He’s going to be tutored for a while. That should start soon, according to his mother.
Matthew didn’t talk about the operation or his medical condition or being in the hospital.
His parents got through the experience with “faith,” Elena said, and “because he’s so good.”
“I can’t believe it all happened” already, Elena concluded.