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Tristan Kaphan, Inspiration to a World, Earns His “Angel Wings” Days After 1st Birthday

| June 29, 2013

Tristan Kaphan in May.  (Tristan Kaphan/Facebook)

Tristan Kaphan in May. (Tristan Kaphan/Facebook)

Tristan Brayden Kaphan, the Palm Coast boy born with half a heart a little over a year ago, and who had since developed a world of a following as his parents eloquently documented his struggles and triumphs on Facebook, including a heart transplant when he was three and a half months old, died today.

“Tristan earned his angel wings this morning,” his parents wrote in a posting that appeared in early evening Saturday. “Our Rock Star put on his final show and it was breath taking. Tristan may have only been with us for a short time, but in that time he taught us amazing lessons about strength, courage, and the power of a simple smile. Tristan affected people around the world; and if you ask me, only a true Rock Star has the power to do that! Our family would like to thank all of Tristan’s fans, around the world, for your continuous and nonstop thoughts, prayers, and comments. We love you Tristan and can’t wait to see you again!!!”

Tristan’s page had accumulated close to 6,300 fans who followed, day after day, his journey since the transplant, with each posting marking the number of days since it had taken place. He has recently been placed back on the list for a second transplant. He had spent some 90 percent of his 381 days in hospitals, particularly at Shands in Gainesville. The son of Jimmy Kaphan–a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy–and Emily Piekarski, Tristan’s stories and images galvanized his followers into prayer brigades, cheerleaders, serenaders and strangers who for various reasons found themselves attached to him. “I don’t even know you guys (friend of friend) But I am touched by his life story,” one wrote.

“Well, he just continues to trick the docs,” Patti Bissonnette wrote earlier this month. “Hopefully they can use what Tristan teaches them to help another little one who does similar things. Happy he had a good day…and I’ve been telling everyone about Tristan’s smiles! It was so wonderful to see..I still smile when I think of the video! Sleep peacefully little man.”

Tristan was born on June 14, 2012 (weighing 8 pounds and measuring 21 inches), with with a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic left heart syndrome, when the left side of the heart is critically underdeveloped, according to a Mayo Clinic description of the condition. “The left side of the heart can’t effectively pump blood to the body, so the right side of the heart must pump blood both to the lungs and to the rest of the body,” the Mayo Clinic explains. A transplant, which can cost up to half a million dollars, usually follows. Tristan had his first surgery six days after he was born, and would live through four occasions when his heart stopped.

Tristan had been battling through rejection of the transplant he had received and awaiting a second transplant, but doctors had indicated his heart functions had distinctly declined earlier this week, prompting doctors to think of a form of bypass that would enable Tristan to endure the wait until the next transplant.

Condolences began appearing immediately after the announcement Saturday evening.

“Rest in peace, sweet baby and your family have been so brave and strong,” one follower wrote. “May you find peace in heaven and know that you have many people all over the world who are sending their love your way.”

“I started following Tristan through mutual friends,” another wrote. “I have been reading your daily updates and praying for your amazing little man. I am so sorry for your loss. He HAS affected so many people and has taught everyone amazing lessons. God bless your family.

The Children’s Organ Transplant Association, a national charity that steers community fund-raisings for transplant-related expenses hosts a donation page for Tristan here.

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17 Responses for “Tristan Kaphan, Inspiration to a World, Earns His “Angel Wings” Days After 1st Birthday”

  1. MaryJo Morrison Hoefer says:

    Heaven has a new rock star. Tristan you will be missed here on Earth. We love you.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Rest in peace sweet angel….will miss your precious smile <3

  3. Magnolia says:

    Rest in peace, little Angel.

  4. Ray Thorne says:

    Fly with the angels..

  5. r&r says:

    My thoughts and prayers go out to Tristan and his family..

  6. Brian Curbow says:

    My deepest condolences to the family. Rest in peace little man!

  7. Heather says:


  8. Anonymous says:

    RIP sweet boy…you are loved by so many and we will all miss your beautiful smile! Prayers going out to Tristan’s family

  9. John F. Pollinger says:

    There are no words to assuage the feelings of sorrow and grief on Tristan’s passing. Yet hopefully in time, the memories of Tristan’s life and the condolences, prayers and expressions of love by others will help both Emily and Jimmy in the difficult days and months ahead. A remarkable young boy who by his presence in this world showed others, the value and importance of each and every day.

  10. Jimmy Kaphan says:

    Thank you Pierre, this is an excellent article. And thank you for everyone’s continued thoughts and prayers.

  11. Mark says:

    Our hearts go out to the Kaphan family. I am so sorry for your loss. Your love was not only strong for your family but it changed the lives of the people around you.

  12. Perry Mitrano says:

    What a wonderful smile, my prayers as he goes through the gates of Heaven.

  13. Christina says:

    My deepest condolences to Tristans family. Tristan had such a contagious smile and he touched so many lives. I will be praying for Tristan’s family during this difficult time. Rest in Peace baby boy..

  14. Carol & Danny Carter says:

    So sorry to hear that Tristan has left us. In the pic. he has such a beautiful smile, I know he brought smiles to his family and friends also. You fought the good fight and now God will take care of you from now on. Prayers go out to his parents.

  15. Eric says:

    The smile that this little guy had was amazing. Very special. And the smile is still shining upon all of us.

  16. Mike L says:

    I am so glad to have met Tristan a couple months ago. He was always smiling and I know he is still smiling down on all of us. Rest in Peace Rock Star!

  17. seriously says:

    I think about his sweet eyes all the time. He has the most beautiful smile. Such a little fighter. Emily, Kaleb and Jimmy, if there is anything you need please let your community know. Please note that you are not alone through this!! Over the past year, 6,000+ people fell in love with your precious gift. He was here for a purpose, even though it was a short time. His story shows Bravery and Inspiration. Rock on Sweet baby boy. You will be missed by all.

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