A Youngstown toddler born with a congenital heart defect is still continuing to fight his battle after his parents learned he will now have to undergo a heart transplant.

The family is now staying in Cleveland full time as the toddler awaits the procedure. We spoke with them about the rocky journey and how the community continues to be there saving grace in these troubling times.

Jude Sedor-Franzak was born six weeks premature in 2020 with a hole in his heart. The hole grew bigger and eventually required open heart surgery in September of 2021. Because of complications caused by heart block, the toddler had to have a pacemaker installed in October. 

During routine checkup, Jude's doctors discovered that his heart had become enlarged and he was immediately hospitalized at Akron Children's Hospital. Jude's condition deteriorated and the toddler was unstable, requiring intubation and emergency transport by ambulance to Cleveland Clinic, where he was admitted to the PICU. Jude has been in the hospital since February 16, 2022. 

Jude then underwent more surgery to replace and rewire his pacemaker. "Unfortunately, the new pacemaker did not function as the doctors had hoped, leading to Jude's heart failure. He has since undergone yet another surgery, this time to install a Berlin Heart. This ventricular assist device pumps blood from his left ventricle to his aorta, keeping him stable until he can receive a new heart," said Jessica Sedor-Franzak, Jude's mother. 

Jude is currently staying at the Cleveland Clinic and his parents, T.J. and Jessica are on unpaid leave to care for him full-time. 

There are several ways you can help the Sedor-Franzak's. They are parishioners at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Hubbard where Jude's grandmother, Sharon Epps is accepting donations. The parish's 'Craft Club & Shine' program is making bracelets to be sold as a fundraiser for Jude. T.J Sedor-Franzak's parents are also parishioners at St. Benedict the Abbot in McMurray, PA and are currently accepting donations as well. 

"We are working together this Tuesday, July 19 to make bracelets as a fundraiser for little Jude and his parents to help with medical expenses," said Lisa Love, coordinator of the event. "The members of our parish family are always ready and willing to follow Christ’s call to love one another and shine His Light. The bracelets will be available for a donation at the church’s annual festival on August 4-7."

Jude's parents are also working with the Children's Organ Transplant Association (COTA) to assist with transplant-related expenses. The family is also selling tshirts in support of Jude's journey. 

Altogether, the family as been able to raise $63,000 out of a $100,000 goal to ease the financial stress. 

It is unknown when Jude will undergo his heart transplant. "No one knows for sure," explained Jessica Sedor-Franzak. "It depends on when a heart becomes available with the correct tissue type, blood type, right size and antibodies. Jude is listed 1A, which means he’s at the top of the list because he’s on a device."

With a successful heart transplant, Jude is expected to make a full recovery.