Yesterday there came a small knock on my door here at the apartment.  Answering it, I found it was one of the children that live in the complex named Hunter.  He is a 10 year old boy and friend to my nephew.  He came to my door in hopes of seeing the kittens he heard my cat had.  I gladly let him in, showed him where the animals were, and he spent about half an hour cuddling and doting over them.

You may not think there is much to tell about this; I mean kids love baby animals.  His mother knows me and it is common for him to come by the apartment just to say hi and get a hug from time to time.  If my nephew is not here we usually spend an hour or so playing the Wii and he kicks my butt in Mario Cart.  What makes Hunter special is two years ago he underwent a heart transplant.  He has become somewhat of  the complex mascot and all of the tenants look after him while he is outside.

Every time I see him I think about how much he has gone through in his young life and how close he came to dying.  He doesn’t talk about it much but as I have gotten to know him he has spoken to me about the experience, pain and problems he went through when he found out the heart he was born with was not able to work properly.  I can’t help but to think how that would affect me if I went through the same thing.  How many of us would simply shut down, fall into a depression, and wait to die?  I’m betting a lot of us would.

Hunter, on the other hand, simply went on with what life he thought he had left — swimming, playing, and doing the things kids do within the limits of what his heart would allow.  He got tired easily before the transplant and he was as thin as a rail.  He spent months in and out of the hospital while waiting for a new heart and when the time finally came a few months after he was diagnosed he was excited.  He always looked towards the future and never once did he complain or wonder why the heart he was born with was failing.

Today, Hunter is just like any other 10 year old.  If you were not told, you would never guess that he has had something as serious as a heart transplant.  Since the operation he has gained weight, plays outside on his bike, skateboard and scooter, swims every chance he gets during the summer and is otherwise a normal 10 year old boy.  Ask him and he will gladly pull his shirt up and show you his “scars of courage.”  It is humbling when he does this.  Seeing the scar that begins just below the collar bone and ends shortly before the belly button, with multiple other scars on the belly from the various drainage tubes on a 10 year old boy, is frightening yet amazing at the same time.

Hunter makes me realize that, no matter the problems I have, be they financial, personal, or even medical, it can’t hold a candle to what this young boy not only went through, but did with a positive attitude.  He reminds me that life is fragile and you must make the best out of each day.  Knowing that this sweet, kind, loving young boy looked death right in the eye and refused to even acknowledge the possibility that he would die gives me strength to handle my, by comparison, mundane problems.

I enjoy the time I spend with Hunter.  Some weeks ago he spent the night with my nephew and brought along a bag that I thought was toys.  Turned out, however, it was his medicine.  For the rest of his life he has to take dozens of pills every day to prevent his body from rejecting the alien heart.  Even this he does not complain about.  One of the pills, which I later found out was a calcium pill, was so huge I thought it was a suppository.  When I asked him if we needed to go to the bathroom for that one he grinned, flattened it and swallowed it down like it was nothing.

So, when you think life just isn’t fair, that no one could possibly have problems as bad as yours, think about Hunter and kids like him.  You may find that your problems are more trivial than you think.

Slapped Death right in the face.