Roseville boy waits for new heart

Single mom struggles to make ends meet, friend organizes fundraiser
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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When Justin Caldwell was 8 months old, he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, an abnormally enlarged heart.

At 2 years old he had his first heart transplant. Everything seemed to be improving, but then his health worsened.

Now 12, Justin is a sixth grader at Excelsior School in Roseville, except he hasn’t yet started school there this year, instead spending the past two months waiting for a new heart at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University in Palo Alto.

On July 14, Justin fell ill, so his mom Katie Caldwell rushed him to the emergency room.

“That’s the last time I was home,” Caldwell said.

She’s now living in the Ronald McDonald House near the hospital and has put her job on hold. She’s still paying rent for their Roseville apartment and related expenses. And she could use some help.

“She is awesome, one of the most strong, caring and loyal women around,” said friend Mary Freeman, who lives in southern California and has known Caldwell since they were kids growing up together in Lincoln.

Freeman organized a fundraiser called “Justin Ribbons” and is selling these ribbons on a Facebook page she created called “Heart4Justin.” She also started a Wells Fargo account to collect donations.

“I’m just her best friend trying to spread the word,” Freeman said. “She would do it for me, so I’m doing it for her.”

Through the ribbons and other efforts she has raised about $1,800. Katie Caldwell’s sister Erica is setting up a car wash in Lincoln on Saturday, Sept. 24.

Justin’s condition isn’t the only tragedy to befall the family. When Justin was 7, he and his mom celebrated the birth of his baby sister Emily. At 4 months old, she passed away from dilated cardiomyopathy.

You’d never know Justin had a health condition, as he was active in soccer and baseball, Caldwell said, adding that his teammates have shown “great support” during a time when she and her son need it.

“Everything comes to a dead stop. You’re here (at the hospital) 24/7,” Caldwell said. “I’m so thankful for what everyone’s done.”

Now she’s waiting for that day when the news finally comes that a heart is ready for Justin.

Sena Christian can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.


Car wash benefitting Justin Caldwell
Starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24
Where: Zebra Town Deli and Market parking lot, 102 G Street in Lincoln
Cost: Donations accepted


For more information, visit To donate to the “Have a Heart for Justin Fund,” go to Wells Fargo online and search account No. 3038544718.