CHAMPS Host Committee: Andrew Romzek's Story

Our newest CHAMPS host committee members are Pat and Marilyn Romzek of Northville, who have a special tie to the University of Michigan.

In 1987, Pat and Marilyn Romzek welcomed their second son, Andrew, into the world at a community hospital outside of Ann Arbor. Within a few hours of Andrew’s birth, he was experiencing respiratory and cardiac distress and was sent to the NICU for further examinations and monitoring. The family was notified the following day that Andrew was born with three heart defects and Down Syndrome. After a month in the NICU, the newborn was sent home with a feeding tube, a heart monitor, and medications to make his heart beat stronger.

“I just can’t express how emotionally challenging this was,” Pat says. “For months, we fed this child through a tube, he was connected to a heart monitor and slept for 23 and a half hours every day. We felt so bad for him. We didn’t have a lot of hope; we just prayed, and tried to do our very best for Andrew.”

Andrew was about five months old when he became gravely ill with pneumonia and had a high fever. Pat, a University of Michigan alumnus, and Marilyn decided Andrew would have the best chance at survival if they transferred him to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “I remember following the ambulance in my car and thinking, this is it. He may not survive this latest setback,” Pat recalls.

As soon as they arrived at Mott, their darkest hour gave way to their greatest moment of hope. Andrew was examined, and Pat and Marilyn were presented with unforgettable news: “First, we’re going to cure him of pneumonia. Then I want you back here in a few weeks when he’s strong enough for a heart catheter, and then in six weeks, we’ll fix his heart,” Pat recalls a Mott physician explaining.

When it was time for baby Andrew’s risky open-heart surgery, his parents still were not sure if this would be the last time they would see him. Four hours later, according to Andrew’s heart surgeon, Steven Bolling (M.D. 1979), professor of cardiac surgery, the operation went as well as his team could have hoped.

“His heart is fixed; now go have a great life,” Bolling told the Romzeks.

Though Down syndrome caused developmental and physical delays for Andrew, he continues to grow stronger. He finished school when he turned 26 at a special needs program in Dearborn. Now, at age 30, Andrew is happy, healthy, and is inspiring people to live life to the fullest.

“Andrew is one of the greatest blessings of our life, and we cannot imagine a world without him. This blessing would not have occurred without Mott Children’s Hospital, and for that, we will be eternally grateful,” Pat says. Pat dedicates his time to advocating for people with special needs at Mott.

“Michigan Medicine is more than just a great health system; it’s an organization with an amazing culture and a deep level of caring for all human beings and their indomitable human spirit,” Pat says. “And that’s a rare combination.”

Remember to save the date for the fifth-annual CHAMPS for Mott Culinary Gala on September 29, 2018. To donate to CHAMPS for Mott or learn more about its host committee, visit champsformott.org. Proceeds from the fundraiser will support the creation of a hybrid operation room at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital that will serve multiple service lines.