The North Haven community is mourning the loss of a special 6-year-old boy, who died yesterday from complications following a heart transplant.
Especially affected is the high school football team, of which he was an honorary member.
Matthew Jacques, a kindergartner at the Montowese School in North Haven, spent his short life battling a congenital heart defect called pulmonary atresia.
The diagnosis came before he was born, according to The New London Day.
His heart was failing, and after three open-heart surgeries, it was clear he needed at transplant, according to a Facebook post on a page created by his parents.
Matthew waited more than 200 days to receive his new heart. The transplant was performed in August at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New-York Presbyterian, a division of the Columbia University Medical Center.
His death came suddenly.
After the transplant, Matthew had been in good spirits and seemed to be recovering, despite fending off a virus and two forms of rejection to the new heart, his parents wrote on Facebook.
His first post-surgery meal was a heart-shaped pizza, half pepperoni and made to order.
Get-well cards from classmates flooded his hospital room, and one North Haven football player paid him a visit.
Matthew was special to the football team, which raised more than $9,000 toward his medical expenses in its ninth annual “Spring Brawl” intra-squad scrimmage this June.
Before the final number was announced, Matthew donned a tiny North Haven jersey and took to the field, scoring a touchdown. The crowd went wild.
He hoped to someday play on that field as an official member of the football team.
Matthew’s name came up when a senior on the team, Alex Baglioni, heard about his condition. Baglioni’s sister endured multiple open-heart surgeries, so the cause hit close to home.
Team members considered Matthew one of their own and has dedicated the entire season to the six-year-old who inspired them.
"He was a wonderful young man – big smile," said North Haven High School Athletic Director Todd Petronio. "We're certainly going to miss him here in North Haven."
Tonight’s game will be an emotional one as players remember the six-year-old who made a mark on their hearts.
“Our family just wants to thank everyone in North Haven so much from the deepest part of our hearts,” Al Jacques told The Day.
Family friend Sonny Martone put together this tribute video.