Bay area family makes public plea after boy, 3, dies waiting for heart transplant

Kolton Hessman. (Family handout)

TAMPA, Fla.  (WFLA) – A Tampa Bay area boy’s family is making a plea to the public to help save children’s lives.

Kolton Hessman, 3, was born with his heart on the wrong side of his body and a rare condition that caused more than half a dozen heart defects.  He needed a heart transplant, but his little body gave out as he waited for a donor, and he died on January 25.

Now Kolton’s family is doing all they can to make sure other families won’t have to experience the same pain and heartbreak they’ve faced.

“First time ever he shook his head…” said his father, Grant Hessman, as he burst into tears recalling his son’s final moments. It was the first and last time Kolton would shake his head. He was ready to let go.

Hessman continued weeping as he tried to tell his son’s story. As he regained composure, he told News Channel 8 that every day for six months, Kolton’s mom would ask her son if he wanted to see God, and in January, he did.

The family said doctors used advances in Bluetooth technology to help preserve his memory.

“And they put it on his heart and they recorded his heart for us so we’d always have that,” Hessman told us.

Kolton touched many lives during his short time on Earth.  When word got out about his love for law enforcement, he gained national attention on social media, spawning the hashtag #KoltonStrong.  Badges, patches, and hats came pouring in from all over the world.

“But still he could have been any one of our children,” said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco.  His department would be one of the many praying for Kolton’s survival.

“If we can light up their day, give them a big smile because we sent them a hat or a key chain or something with the sheriff’s office on it, we want to do that.”

Kolton may not have survived, but his death would bring new life to his family.

“Everybody has a purpose,” Kolton’s grandfather, Richard, told us.  “We don’t know what it is.  We found out what Kolton’s purpose was and this is it.”

Now, Richard Hessman of New Port Richey and his son who now lives in Tennessee, are on a mission.

They’ve helped to create a public service announcement that urges people to be pediatric and adult organ donors.

Every year, 2,000 infants and adolescents need an organ transplant while just one person can help eight others.

“It’s just amazing how these kids bounce back after that.  It’s like a new lease on life,” Richard told News Channel 8 as he urged parents to think about organ donation even when their children are little.

To learn more about organ donation, you can visit, and click here to listen to the Public Service Announcement in Kolton’s honor.

Follow Paul Mueller on Facebook


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