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Williams County boy celebrates first birthday, thanks to life-saving heart transplant

Dean has been able to celebrate Christmas and see a new year. Now, he’s turning one, right before Valentine’s Day - and it's all thanks to the gift of a new heart.

BRYAN, Ohio — For Crystal Zehr, just being able to sit at home with her son is a world away from the months spent in the hospital with her son Dean constantly attached to IVs and reliant on around-the-clock care to survive.

“I was worried Dean would not make it, you know," Zehr said.

After multiple surgeries and diagnosis’, Crystal and her husband got the news. Dean needed a new heart.

In September, it happened.

RELATED: Williams County infant 'doing wonderful' after receiving heart transplant

"We had an emergency in the house and had to do some reno' and I had just started tearing up the carpet in the living room and I got the call," Zehr said.

Crystal rushed to Ann Arbor and Dean got his new heart. 

Thinking about the process and donor’s family still brings tears to her eyes.

“They gave my son a chance at life and I feel for them every day. I don’t know who they are. I don’t know who their child was," Zehr said, overcome with emotion. "I know the heart had to be within two years of Dean."

Because of that donation, Dean has been able to celebrate his first Christmas, see a new year, and now, he’s turning one, right before Valentine’s Day. 

It’s bittersweet with the family not being able to get together, because in Dean's condition, COVID or even the common cold can be dangerous.

“To celebrate with family, even to celebrate the fact that Dean’s still here, would be great. It would probably be one of the most amazing experiences of my life," Zehr said.

Especially since so many of their family members haven’t gotten to meet him yet, at least not in person.

“My brother hasn’t even held him. My mother, my sister. My sister-in-law is my best friend and she hasn’t held him, they had their son seven weeks before mine and I haven’t even gotten to see him," Zehr said.

But Crystal is hopeful for a healthy future with Dean, surrounded by family.