A “Welcome Home” celebration was held recently at Palmetto High School for Hunter Barnard. Hunter, a senior at Palmetto, received a heart transplant on September 11, 2021 and remained in Charleston until Dec. 15. Faculty and students at Palmetto came out to welcome Hunter home during the “drive through” celebration. (Photo by Mike Gowan)
Welcome Home Celebration held for Hunter Barnard
A “Welcome Home” celebration was held Monday at Palmetto High School for Hunter Barnard. Hunter, a senior at Palmetto, received a heart transplant on September 11, 2021. He was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), which means that he was born with only half a heart.
Hunter has struggled with the complications and limitations of HLHS his entire life. Receiving his first heart surgery when he was just three days old, others followed, along with yearly heart catheterizations.
When his condition took a turn for the worse last summer, Hunter returned to MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital in Charleston, where he would stay until he received a necessary heart transplant. He remained a patient at Shawn Jenkins from last August until December 2021.
Palmetto High Freshman Academy Math Teacher Kim Shuey Barker helped coordinate the celebration. “Since August, students at Palmetto High have creatively raised over $12,000 for Hunter and his family,” Barker said. “Because of Hunter’s condition, he is not able to attend school or other “normal” activities as any other high school senior would; and as you can imagine, he misses school, friends and teachers very much!”
Because of Covid protocol and Hunter’s health restrictions, students and faculty at Palmetto High planned an inventive way to show Hunter how much they love and support him.
The school planned to hold a celebration during the monthly fire drill, which would also be a “Welcome Home, Hunter” celebration! Once all of the students were out of the building, Hunter’s mom Becky drove him around the school so he could see everyone see and how much he is loved and missed.
Hunter was born at MUSC in Charleston because they specialize in his condition. According to his mom, babies born with HLHS have what is called “The Norwood Procedures”, which is three separate open heart surgeries. He had his first surgery when he was three days old, his second surgery when he was six months old, and his third surgery when he was four years old. He had to have a heart cathe done every year after that.
When he was seven, his Doctors said that the surgeries were not working for him and he needed to have a heart transplant within a year or so.
“By the grace of God though, he remained stable for ten more years,” Becky said.
Last year his condition began to get worse and he had to go to MUSC on August 13 for the transplant workup. “We were told that he could not leave the hospital until he had a transplant,” his mom said. “Before the transplant, his body (stomach and kidneys) started shutting down.”
“He had the transplant on Sept. 11 and was in surgery for 19 straight hours. After the transplant he developed an infection in his lungs and remained on a ventilator and dialysis for six weeks. Being on the ventilator for so long caused damage to his vocal cords and he can still only whisper when he talks,” his mom said. “Being on the operating table for 19 hours also caused a stage 4 ulcer on his backside, which is still healing and he has a G-tube to help with nutrition.”
Hunter was released from the hospital after three months but had to remain in Charleston for another month. He was finally strong enough to return home on Dec. 15.
“Now he is seeing numerous doctors in the Upstate along with Home Health that visit him at home. He still has to go to MUSC every month for heart caths and will continue to take place for a long time,” Becky said.
Hunter is doing his school work as a home bound student. “He is excited about at least being able to walk across the stage with his classmates to graduate,” his mom said. “We would like to thank everyone for your help and prayers, especially the donor family who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Editor’s note: Hunter was featured in Vickie Creamer’s Social Media Share column in November. Welcome Home, Hunter!