GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -- A thirteen year old born with congenital heart disease needs about $1.3 million to get him a new heart at UF Health Shands.
Andy Herrera Reyes has spent months away from their home in the Domincan Republic to get the young teen the best treatment. He's had a long 13 years of open heart surgeries and extended hospital visits
Karen Reyes, Andy's mother, said her family's faith in God is helping them, as her son prepares to undergo a heart transplant.
"We never thought we were going to get here," she said.
"He's been special since he was born," said Andy's father, Sandy Herrera.
Karen said, "The biggest part was when we were told the quantity of what it would take to bring him here. It's a big quantity because we are poor people."
Andy left the Dominican Republic in August to get treatment from doctors in the Cayman Islands.
"The doctors met with us and they said, 'There's nothing we can do for your son. Here we've done everything and there aren't any possibilities. You have one option which would be to do a heart or lung transplant,'" Sandy said.
Over the weekend, he came to UF Health Shands, one of the only hospitals in the U.S. who would accept Andy with just 60% of the funds raised.
Andy’s father learned of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital’s expertise in pediatric cardiology and heart surgery ranking highest in FL by US News & World Report. In addition, the UF Health Congenital Heart Center is one of 11 facilities in North America with the highest star rating for congenital heart surgical outcomes.
"Thanks to God all the generous people who helped us, we were able to get 60% to get us here," Karen said.
Andy has about $900,000 so far, raised with the help of famous YouTubers, dominican singers, and pro athletes like David Ortiz. His family is partnered with a non-profit in New Jersey called Gift of Life, Inc.
Karen said ,"He wants to be a baseball player, an engineer, and he wants to have a non-profit organization to help other kids in need just like him."
"The strength that my son has is an immense strength that only God can give," Sandy said with tears in his eyes.
His parents said with all they've gone through, Andy is what keeps them fighting.
"My strength came from Andy. Every time Andy was in pain, I would look at him and my eyes would get teary and Andy would say 'don't cry, I'm okay,'" Karen said.
"God is big. Whenever we come to visit him, we ask, 'Andy how are you,' he said, 'Mom, God talked to me. I will be ok,'" said Sandy.
Andy still needs a donor, and less than $400,000 to proceed with the transplant.