A boy from Mankato, Minn., has a broken heart that doctors can't fix, and that means the 15-year-old is waiting for a new one while he comes to terms with the bitter reality that someone must die for him to get it.
Two weeks ago, Collin Luitjens seemed like a perfectly healthy teen who enjoyed video games. These days, those games are only distraction from the harsh reality of real life.
"Just helps me forget about the fact that I need a new heart," Luitjens said.
For the Luitjens family, the last two weeks have been excruciating.
"As far as we were concerned, up until Wednesday the 12th, he was a healthy, 15-year-old boy," Matt Luitjens, Collin's father, told Fox 9-KMSP News.
What began as a complaint of stomach pain brought Collin Luitjens to a hospital where doctors heard a crackle in his heart.
"Basically, his heart isn't pumping properly," Matt Luitjens said. "When your heart pumps, it pushes out 70 to 80 percent of the fluid or blood in the heart. When we came in two weeks ago, his was at 4 percent."
After days of tests, the news came on Valentine's Day, news that no family is ever prepared for.
"Happy Valentines Day! You need a heart," Matt Luitjens recalled.
Heart surgery is a scary prospect on its own, but waiting for word that the heart transplant is coming has Collin Luitjens grappling with many emotions.
"Wait is just like, 'Okay, when is this going to happen?" Collin Luitjens said. "I need a new heart. When is this going to happen?"
The need is dire. Matt Luitjens says without a new heart, his son will die. That's why Collin Luitjens is now at the top of the donor list; however, the family's realization that someone else must die to save him has been a difficult pill to swallow. Collin Luitjens told Fox 9 News that his faith helps him come to terms with the another's passing.
"Just thinking to myself that the person is going to a better place when they die and they're saving my life too," he said.
For now, Collin Luitjens is calling the University of Minnesota's Amplatz Children's Hospital his home because he's not healthy enough to leave. His father took a leave of absence from the Scott County Sheriff's Office, where he's a corrections officer, to be there with his son.
The family says their hearts have been filled with love as people have rallied to raise money to help them get through, but the Luitjens are asking for something specific: they want everyone to sign up to be an organ donor.
"Save a life. Why not?" Matt Luitjens asked. "Why not save a 15-year-old's life?"
Collin's family is raising money to help pay the costs of the organ transplant. You can find out more here: Team Collin.
Also, Collin keeps his own blog, which can be read here Collin Luitjens on CaringBridge.