Football players shouted “Sammy! Sammy!” outside Cook Children’s Medical Center Wednesday night to show support for a Haltom High School sophomore who could die if his lungs don’t heal quickly.
For 15 hours Monday, Dr. Vincent Tam operated on Samuel Ramon Jr. to enlarge his narrow and underdeveloped lung arteries.
The Star-Telegram first wrote about Ramon, now 16, in 1999 when he was just 2 months old after he was born with a rare, congenital heart defect.
Ramon was born without one of his primary arteries, and other underdeveloped arteries were impeding blood flow, Tam said. When Ramon was 2, doctors put in a human-donated valve and on Monday it was removed and another was put in.
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Tam enlarged Ramon’s arteries to improve blood flow and even replaced his old human-donated valve with a new one, but Ramon’s right lung swelled and became congested.
He remains hooked to a machine that provides cardiac and respiratory support, but it can’t keep him going forever.
“We have to try to wean his support from the machine,” Tam said. “The longer you’re on this machine the potential for problems go up.”
The mortality risk is high with this type of surgery, with average statistics giving him a 50 percent chance of survival, Tam said.
Ramon is heavily sedated in the intensive care unit at Cook’s, but his 11-year-old sister Natalie, one of three siblings, said she believed he could hear the crowd gathered to pray for him outside the hospital Wednesday night.
The sophomore was a proud member of the Haltom High Buffalos football team where he helped out as a trainer.
“He is a king, and he liked to be called ‘King Sammy,’ ” his football buddy Zach Delgado said.
Delgado, 18, and a recent graduate of Haltom High, met Ramon when Delgado and his brother Alex played for the Buffalos in their senior year. Delgado said Ramon never used his condition as an excuse and could hang with the punches.
“As soon as he gets out of here, wherever he wants to go, I will take him,” he said through tears.
Thursday was designated “Sammy Day” at the school, and everyone is asked to wear red and black — his favorite colors — or orange and black, the school’s colors.
Students are being asked to take photos of themselves and post them to social media with the hashtag #SamuelRamon so the young man has something to inspire him when he is taken off the machine, his aunt Valerie Ramon said.
The Star-Telegram last wrote about Ramon over a decade ago when the then 5-year-old boy visited the North Richland Hills Police Department for the first time. Ramon’s grandmother had called the department after he was born for help with no where else to turn. The North Richland Hills Police Association took up his cause and raised $1,000 for the family to travel to San Antonio where a doctor performed heart surgery for free.
This report includes material from Star-Telegram archives.
Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792