10-year-old gives back after live-saving surgery

Young patient wants to help other kids

MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times Nathaniel Cline sits with classmates a New Matamoras Elementary School during a presentation by the Matamoras EMS Friday afternoon. After open heart surgery two years ago to correct a condition that had afflicted him from early childhood, Cline rallied his community to raise enough money to donate new wagons that help patients move their goods around at Nationwide Children's Hospital, where his surgery was performed.

NEW MATAMORAS — Last year, 10-year-old Nathaniel Cline played football for the first time in his life. Last week, he gave something back to the hospital that made it possible.

When he was 1 year old, Nathaniel’s doctors detected a heart murmur, a condition not uncommon in children and one that they ordinarily grow out of. Nathaniel’s heart murmur, however, got worse as he grew older.

His father, Jerry Cline, said he and Nathaniel spent a lot of time on the road for the first eight years of his life, making dozens of trips a year to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. He was in a perpetual state of tension as the condition worsened, he said.

“There were a lot of bad nights over the years,” he said. “If Nathaniel didn’t sleep, I didn’t sleep.”

Nathaniel was scheduled for a heart transplant two years ago, but doctors decided a Ross procedure, a less drastic measure to replace his aortic valve, was a better alternative.

The surgeons were shocked, Jerry Cline said, when they saw Nathaniel’s heart.

“They said it defied medical science, it had grown muscles to compensate in ways they’d never seen before,” he said. “They want to use his medical information from the time he was born for research, they say there might be things there that could help save other kids’ lives.”

Meanwhile, Nathaniel was thinking about the other patients at Nationwide.

“I felt bad for some of the other kids, the people there, because they didn’t have wagons,” he said. “I saw moms carrying all their stuff around with a baby to carry, too.”

The hospital, Jerry said, had a few carts but they were plastic and didn’t stand up very well under wear and tear.

“We found some that were made of wood, with metal axles and ball bearings, made to last,” he said. They cost $500. Father and son started raising money, and as word spread the rest of the community pitched in. The Frontier High School student council took up the cause, Kroll Oil and Gas gave enough for one wagon and a line crew from AEP Ohio who already knew Nathaniel bought another.

Last Friday, a busload of students from the high school along with Jerry and Nathaniel and other project supporters from the Cline family and the community delivered nine of the wagons, along with a cache of toys bought by the high school.

“There were 20 kids, each of them with two big bags of toys in their hands,” Nathaniel said.

The group was met by surgeons and hospital staff, and later they were allowed to watch open heart surgery on a child from an observation room, Jerry Cline said.

“It was amazing, the staff was watching everything on monitors, talking to the surgeon from the observation room,” he said.

“We raised $4,500, and it wasn’t easy in our small community,” he said, expressing gratitude to his family and the whole community for their support when Nathaniel was ill and when he wanted to help the hospital that saved him.

“Now, I can play football. Before this, I couldn’t even do gym at all,” Nathaniel said. Now he can fish, hunt, play baseball and fulfill his career ambition to become a firefighter, like his father.

“I was a firefighter for 34 years, I met a lot of good people, and those people helped me out,” Jerry Cline said. “And my family, they are always there for me.”

The two are planning a fishing trip to Lake Erie this summer, something that was impossible before.

“Nathaniel, he’s always about doing things for others. He’s brave, he’s humble, and I’m blessed,” Jerry said.

Nathaniel Cline

• Age: 10.

• School: New Matamoras Elementary, grade 4.

• Accomplishment: Began a movement that raised $4,500 to purchase wagons for patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital to move around the facility more easily.

Source: Times research.