This Family Shared a Sweet Photo of Their 1-Year-Old to Help Find His Heart Donor

After beating the odds at just 3 months old thanks to a heart transplant, Titus Sickles, now 1 year old, honored his donor with a full-on photo shoot for his first birthday. When he was born on Jan. 8, Titus had half a heart and was also diagnosed with cardiomyopathy — when you heart doesn't pump blood efficiently — so within a matter of days he was put on the transplant list. Following a terrifying year of health problems for Titus, his mom, Rena Sickles, organized the shoot. She enlisted the help of Sarah Masten from Little Hearts Photos, who got to work planning the perfect day.

"It was a miracle he even made it to his first birthday," Rena told POPSUGAR. "Without his heart transplant he would have been lucky to make it through the next week. We felt like his birthday was a huge milestone and what better way to celebrate than to capture the excitement."

And Rena had a very particular concept in mind for the shoot. Because of privacy laws, organ donors' identities are kept secret, which meant Rena needed to get creative.

"I asked his photographer if she was up for a challenge to make one of the photos like those pictures people take with a sign looking for their biological parents after being adopted," she said. "To me, the donor's family is our family, so it was the same concept to me. After all, Titus is only alive today because of their selfless choice to donate life."

Rena Sickles

Although Rena can't imagine what tremendous loss the donor's family had to go through, she hopes that this photo series proves how far their kindness and selflessness went.

"I speak for my whole family I believe when I say we really hoped that the donor family would see the photo and, at the very least, get a little healing by seeing the beauty that came from their tragedy," she said. "It would also be amazing to thank them and have them meet Titus in person, but we do completely understand if the wound is still too fresh to go down that path."

Little Hearts Photos by Sarah Masten

The most powerful part of the photo? The sign that's sitting right next to Titus. It reads: "I'm Titus! I was born Jan. 8th, 2018 with a very sick heart. I received a heart transplant in Seattle, Washington, on April 7th, 2018 that saved my life. I respect if it hurts too much to reach out to us, but I need this to reach my donor family so I can say thank you for the gift of life. I'm healthy and alive because of you!"

Now, Rena is doing everything possible to raise awareness for organ donation. She's hoping the photo shoot can truly put things into perspective for other families.

"Even if the donor's family were never to reach out, my hope is to raise awareness," explained Rena. "Someone is added to the organ transplant waiting list every 10 minutes and an average of 22 people die every day while waiting for their life saving organ that never came in time. Titus was very close to being that patient, so I feel it's my duty to show others how important it is to be an organ donor and save other lives just like Titus."

Little Hearts Photos by Sarah Masten

Ever since the sweet photo shoot, Titus has been enjoying life with his brothers. And although he's all smiles, Rena knows just how close she came to losing him.

"Not many realize that there are tons of children waiting who deserve a second chance at life," she said. "My baby boy was given another chance at a beautiful life, so raising awareness is the least I can do."