Lititz boy, 7, needs organ transplants, campaigns for donor sign-ups
LITITZ, Pa. (WHTM) -
Tony Forte carries a burden no 7-year-old should have to bear.
"It's going to take a child's life to save Tony's, it's gotta be the same match, the same size," said his mom Monica Forte.
Tony needs several new organs—a stomach, intestines and a liver.
In his Lititz backyard, Tony swung a wiffle ball bat, sending white dandelion seed into the air.
He's hesitant to say what his wish was, fearful that it won't come true.
"[It was] something that I always wanted," he said after much prodding. "[A] transplant, and I was lucky, that was the last dandelion."
Tony has Hirschsprung's disease, an intestinal disease that doesn't allow him to digest food properly.
Monica Forte said she knew within the first week of Tony's life that something wasn't right. After an admission to Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital and several tests, they discovered he had the disease that one in 5,000 babies are born with.
Having Hirschsprung's means Tony can only eat a few bites of food. Instead, most of his nutrition come through a central line that's implanted in his chest.
Recently, Tony and his family teamed up with Donate Life PA to take part in a campaign that encourages everyone to consider organ donation.
"There are so many people in Pennsylvania alone that need an organ, it's a really crazy amount," said Tony's 12-year-old brother Vincent, who is featured in the PSA.
About 116,000 people in the United States are currently waiting for organs.
"It only takes 30 seconds to become a registered organ donor," Vincent said in the PSA.
While those under 16 can't officially sign up, there's often a need for much younger, much smaller, donors. And while it's something no parent wants to think about—ever—it's something Monica says should be done early.
"It's the gift of life, it's the greatest gift you could possibly give somebody," she said. "You don't always want to talk about what can happen but life is, ya know, we're not in a bubble."
Monica said parents should make a mental or written commitment in their will to allow their children to be organ donors if tragedy strikes.
"Families look at it, in a way, that the victim is still living on through the recipient because they really are," said Vincent.
For Tony, waiting for a transplant is a race against time.
"Our goal is to try to get Tony this transplant before other organs take over and get sick," said Monica. "We keep Tony healthy by having, we cyber school the boys, we try to live in sanitizer as much as we can but we also try to be normal as well."
For the Forte family, part of that normal, is regularly participating in fundraisers for Tony's medical expenses.
His brothers, Vincent and Dominic, 10, have raised over $10,000 in the past year-and-a-half through a business they started called My Brother's Bread.
To find out more about Tony's journey, you can view his family's website here.