Kansas City,
12:22 PM

After heart transplant, teen given retro surprise

Ayden & Heart Center team

Ayden Ethridge knew the Ford Mustang was in bad shape. That didn’t make him want it any less.

He had planned on saving money and restoring the rusted and aging car his family owned. The problem was that he’s only 15 years old. And a life saving heart transplant earlier this year left him a little behind on his driver education.

The teenager woke up early Saturday morning and came to Children’s Mercy where doctors saved his life earlier this year. He thought he was only coming to meet some familiar faces, the folks who’d helped him when was sick. But when Ayden walked out the hospital doors, what he saw was that same Mustang, new and restored.

“The best gift,” Ayden said as he sat in his car for the first time.

And then he got out, and gave his mother, Jill Gillett, a tearful hug.

Back in February, Ayden came to Children’s Mercy because of heart failure. While he was sick, his mother said that 1965 Mustang the family owned would be his one day. It needed some tender loving care, and likely some new brakes. She promised him the car, not knowing if he’d ever get to drive it. But just after Valentine’s Day, the kid from Fredonia, Kansas, became the hospital’s fifth heart transplant patient.

“You’ve got a new heart in the same body for your car,” Gillett said. “(It’s the) same as you.”




“You’ve got a new heart in the same body for your car. (It’s the) same as you.”
Jill Gillett, Ayden's mom

The car has new brakes, a new suspension and a new interior, thanks to Ayden’s family and Scott Hoag, the CEO of Mustang Racing Technology.

“We decided that the theme for today would be to keep it in its farm fresh glory,” Hoag said of his company’s restoration work on the car. “This is the car that Ayden has in his mind.”

In between the feeling of shock and hugs with the medical staff and his family, Ayden said already knew the first place he wanted to take the car.

“To school,” he said.


Read the full article and see a video of Ayden's Mustang surprise via The Kansas City Star.

Learn more about The Ward Family Heart Center at Children's Mercy.