Dressed to impress in a blue-checkered shirt, a button down vest and a maroon bow tie, four-year-old Ari Schultz officially became a college baseball player in November 2016. The Assumption College Baseball team’s newest recruit signed to the team with just a little help from his dad and a beaming smile on his face. It was hard to tell, as he laughed and smiled throughout the press conference, but Ari was battling congestive heart failure.
Just a few months later, in March 2017, Ari learned he was getting a new heart after waiting in the hospital for 211 days. The five-minute video that his parents shared went viral quickly, garnering over 1.5 million views on Facebook and was featured on major news stations, as well as Inside Edition and People.com. People all around the world rallied for this brave young boy, now five years old, who was so young to be facing a challenge so difficult.
“Ari’s heart began beating in his chest spontaneously at 11:32 p.m. on Friday, March 3,” read the first line of a blog post by Ari’s father, Mike Schultz. The post, from Mike’s blog, “Echo of Hope,” detailed exactly what Ari was going through; the sedation, the breathing tube and the medications. Infection and rejection were real risks that he was facing.
Over the next few weeks in the hospital, Ari faced a myriad of challenges, all of which were documented on the Ari “Danger” Schultz Facebook page as well as detailed and carefully written posts on “Echo of Hope.” Ari awoke, but then his heart arrested; it was no longer beating. Battling rejection, Ari was in and out of medical procedures, on and off breathing tubes and even in and out of sedation.
By the end of May, awake again and seemingly getting better, Ari was moved out of intensive care. Then, after six months in the hospital, Ari finally got to go home. He spent one month filled with normal, fun, five-year-old activities. He played baseball, he golfed, celebrated his sister’s birthday, went to a concert and visited his grandparents. He also received a visit from Red Sox players Christian Vasquez and Xander Bogaerts, who invited him to throw out the first pitch at Fenway Park on August 27.
Unfortunately, Ari Schultz passed away on July 21. Ari’s death struck a chord with many people, most of them sharing their sorrow on social media. The Ari “Danger” Schultz Facebook page was filled with messages of love and sorrow. “Some fans make an instant impact on our team. Ari Schultz, with his optimism & unbridled excitement, is at the top. We’ll miss you, Ari,” read a tweet from The Boston Red Sox official Twitter account, accompanied by two photos of Ari hanging out with team members in the hospital.
Alex Richardson, a junior and one of Ari’s Assumption baseball teammates, shared a smiling photo of Ari dressed in costume and clutching a bat at a Halloween practice. He recalled good times they spent together playing video games, wiffle ball and two-hand-touch football. “I just hope you know how many people’s lives you touched… You will always be in our hearts, especially every time we run out on that baseball field,” Richardson wrote to Ari in the post.
In a truly heartbreaking post on his blog titled, “To Ari, On Your Tenth Birthday,” Ari’s father detailed his past five years and all the hardships that his son and his family have faced. He mentions when Ari first woke up after his heart transplant and recalled his feelings of looking forward, writing, “In that moment, I could see you as a teenager. Doing and being everything you always wanted. I was never so happy in my life.” Then, he recounts the rejection, Ari’s recovery and the “one magical month” that he spent at home. He writes about what it was like at the end, “Everything one more time. Then there were no more times. You were gone. My world ended.”
However tragic his son’s death was, Mike Schultz was still able to look forward. He continues the post by being thankful that Ari is no longer hindered by his illness; he is no longer confined by medications, oxygen or IVs. With a wistful tone Mike writes, “You were perfect again…. It was pure joy. You were pure joy,” before continuing on to imagine the next few years of Ari’s life. In this dream life where Ari is well, he plays baseball, he starts kindergarten and he visits Japan. With no holds on his life, he does amazing things and reaches incredible heights. Mike Schultz ends his touching tribute with a special message to his son, “Ari, to the world you may have been just one person. But to me, you were the world. You always will be. Forever your best friend, and you mine. –Dad.”
Maire Guinee, a senior, studies English. She is a staff writer for Le Provocateur.