TSUU T'INA – In almost every way Colby Wesleybeaver is a regular seven-year-old boy from Tsuu T'ina Nation southwest of Calgary.
He’s growing out his hair like the Ryan’s World YouTube sensation Ryan Kaji. He plays games on his iPad and enjoys playing hockey and other sports with other kids his age.
What sets Wesleybeaver apart from other kids is his unabashed love for the rodeo. He rode his first sheep at two years old and fell in love with everything related to the sport. The last year, he’s had to slow down. Instead of exerting physical strength, he’s had to exercise his imagination. The voracious boy the community nicknamed Cowboy Colby almost lost his life.
Cindy Otter and Clint Hunter, Wesleybeaver’s grandparents, were devastated when a pinched artery in his heart was discovered at 18 months old. A balloon was inserted into the organ to open the artery and restore blood flow. Otter said her grandson never dwelled on the misfortune and grew up like other children.
“That’s how he made it all these years,” Hunter said referring to the balloon.
Hunter and Otter have raised Wesleybeaver since infancy. The procedure was successful until Halloween 2018, when Wesleybeaver started having fainting spells. His grandparents, both trained in CPR and how to use a defibrillator, had to keep a close eye on him.
Wesleybeaver’s name was added to Canada’s heart transplant list. A match was found in early October and the family drove to the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton. The operation took place at 1 a.m. on Oct. 9 and took more than 10 hours. The seven-year-old was sedated for two weeks after the operation and remained in the hospital for another four weeks.
Otter said she knew her grandson would be all right when he said “I love you” after he awoke from sedation and tried to get out of bed. When Wesleybeaver was discharged from Stollery he was admitted to Calgary’s Alberta Children’s Hospital for another four days of recovery.
“It was heartbreaking, but we’re grateful he got it,” Otter said of the transplant.
“Otherwise it would have been a different story.”
The family learned the heart donor originated in the Montreal area and likely came from a child. Prior to being matched with the organ, Wesleybeaver’s own heart had to be measured and his blood type cross referenced. He was very fortunate that a donor came available.
Since returning home Wesleybeaver has been confined to the house. He’s not allowed to mingle in a public setting because of his recovering immune system. Otter says her grandson is getting “cabin fever” and would do anything to play outside with his friends.
On Friday (Nov. 29) Otter and Hunter welcomed the Tsuu T'ina Nation community to celebrate their grandson’s recovery. The pair invited more than 200 family and friends who supported them along their journey. In this case it really did take a village to help raise a child.
When Wesleybeaver is well again he will return to school and will partake in the same activities he enjoyed before. A few years back the family was invited by the Make a Wish Foundation Canada to travel and attend a rodeo in Austin, Texas. He was also sent well-wishes from representatives of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Otter and her husband still marvel at the miracle of their grandson. When their life settles down the pair will thank the family of the heart donor. The donor will remain anonymous, but the family is allowed to write them a letter.
Wesleybeaver will be reliant on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life, but this second chance makes it all worth it.