Overcoming the Distance: Aarian Casey’s Road to Recovery

In October of 2021, Marian Farley began living a mother’s worst nightmare. Her two-month-old daughter Aarian always seemed tired. The pediatrician said it was just congestion and not to worry, but Marian knew that something wasn’t right.

“My spirit told me something was wrong. She didn’t seem just congested. In my spirit, that’s not what it felt like. It was something way different from that,” Marian said.

After taking her daughter to the hospital, Marian’s fears were confirmed.

“She had an enlarged heart. Her heart was way bigger than her body,” Marian said. “They did all they could until the next morning when they contacted the nearest heart doctor. She got airlifted to Gainesville, Florida.”

At just two months old, Aarian was placed on an ECMO Machine and listed for a heart transplant. Doctors didn’t know what would happen next. Marian and her family were terrified. From their home in Valdosta, Gainesville was a long way away and they had no way of knowing how long Aarian’s hospitalization would be.

“My heart was beating fast, my head was spinning, I thought I was gonna lose her because she was so sick,” Marian said.

Despite how frightening her daughter’s condition was, Aarian’s parents had to keep working and caring for their one-year-old son, even though the family could only visit their baby every few weeks.

“[The hardest thing] was continuing our days when that’s always in the back of our mind. Her father still had to go to work to provide even though she was miles away,” Marian said.

The family did everything they could to be with their daughter, but travel and lodging costs were high, and they had a one-year-old son at home to care for.

Options like the Ronald McDonald House weren’t available to the family because their son would not have been able to stay with them due to pandemic safety restrictions.

“We already had money saved up for the year, but we had to take everything out of our savings to travel back and forth to see her. We had to find babysitters for our other child,” Marian said. “Sometimes we were able to see her every weekend, or every other weekend, or every two weekends.”

Eventually the separation became too painful. Marian knew that Aarian needed her family to be closer, but with their savings emptied, long term lodging was going to be a challenge.

Fortunately, after applying through her daughter’s transplant social worker Georgia Transplant Foundation (GTF) was able to help by providing Marian and her family with Lodging Assistance. Through the financial grant GTF provided, the family was able to stay near their baby for the next several months.

“We were just like, ‘Ok, we need to be closer to her.’ Maybe that will make her get well faster. So, we just packed all our clothes and GTF helped us out with the condo [expenses] until she got better,” Marian said.

Aarian was in the hospital for ten long months. With the help of GTF, Marian was able to visit her daughter often. Aarian’s condition slowly improved until she was released in May of 2022.

“While all this was happening, I was already believing that she was OK. Even though it didn’t look like she was, in my spirit I felt like she was going to be OK,” Marian said. “I had to believe that.”

Today things are much brighter for the family. Marian finally has both her children under one roof again.

“We’re much better. [The children are] together again, they’re playing, and she’s laughing,” Marian said.

For more information about GTF’s Lodging Assistance program, visit our website at https://gatransplant.org/our-programs/financial-assistance-programs/lodging-assistance .