GARDENA, Calif. – August 29, 2017 – During the Mustang Club of America’s Grand National event in Kansas City, the Carroll Shelby Foundation surprised Children’s Mercy Hospital with a $10,000 check. The donation was made in honor of 16 year-old Ayden Ethridge, whose story inspired the charity’s board of directors to support the hospital.
Children’s Mercy has been transforming children’s lives and redefining pediatric medicine for more than 120 years. The only free-standing children’s hospital between St. Louis and Denver, it provides comprehensive care for patients from birth to 21 years old.
“We were deeply touched by Ayden’s story and the incredible efforts by the hospital staff to give him a second chance at life,” said Aaron Shelby, Carroll Shelby Foundation Co-President and grandson of Carroll Shelby. “Children’s Mercy consistently is ranked among the leading children’s hospitals in the nation. This donation will allow the hospital to continue improving the well-being of children like Ayden with comprehensive, family-centered health care at the highest level.”
Ayden Ethridge, 16, of Fredonia, Kansas, has a unique bond with his 1965 Mustang. It is a daily reminder of his incredible story.
“You could say that Ayden and his classic Mustang were ‘restored’ the same year,” said Jenni Shreeves, Executive Director, Carroll Shelby Foundation. “It was an honor to present this donation to the hospital that helped keep Ayden alive, especially with the young man and his family in the audience. Hopefully the presentation will also inspire others to support organ transplants for children, as well as show families that we’re in their corner.”
After Ayden experienced a massive heart attack on Feb. 7, 2016, he was sent to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. His mother, Gillett, flew alongside her son in the fixed wing jet with just enough room to hold his toes. Nurses and a paramedic kept Ayden stabilized as he continued having mini-heart attacks.
Ayden was placed on a heart and lung pump at the hospital and quickly advanced to a ventilator. In the following days, Ayden had three surgeries, intubation, shock treatment and EKGs among the procedures to keep him alive. He coughed blood for three days and hallucinated from medicine.
Four days after Ayden arrived at Children’s Mercy, his heart was at only 4 percent capacity with a pump doing all the work. Children’s Mercy was the only hospital in the area with seven of the pumps.
Ayden’s medical team began planning for the installation of an internal heart pump to keep him going until a heart could be found for a transplant. Plans changed, however, as Ayden’s heart weakened and he was no longer a candidate for a heart pump.
But on Feb. 15, 2016, a miracle occurred. During a meeting where the family was told to prepare for end of life decisions, alarms went off on doctors and nurse’s phones in the meeting. The director abruptly left and moments later the door burst open with doctors pouring into the room with the news that a heart had been found.
Ayden grew up with Mustangs. His family owns and shows them in car shows across the region. During his darkest hours in ICU, Gillett told Ayden she would give him the family’s 1965 Mustang if he pulled through his ordeal.
Since Ayden had a tube down his throat that prevented him from speaking, he used sign language to ask for that promise in writing. Their “agreement’ was an important carrot to him.
Six months after Ayden received his heart transplant, Gillette surprised him with the restored 1965 Mustang. Ayden named the vehicle after his donor, Jenna.
Today, Ayden is enjoying life in Fredonia. He plays trombone in the band, sings in the choir and runs cross-country at Fredonia High School. He also enjoys showing his Mustang at events like the MCA Grand Nationals.
About The Carroll Shelby Foundation
The Carroll Shelby Foundation was created by legendary racer and automotive manufacturer Carroll Shelby. Headquartered in Gardena, Calif., the Foundation is dedicated to providing medical assistance for those in need, including children, educational opportunities for young people through automotive and other training programs and benefitting the Shelby Automotive Museum. For more information visit http://www.shelby.com.