After 189 days in the hospital that included a heart transplant surgery, 5-year-old Ari Schultz was finally able to go home June 16. His reaction to hearing the news that he could go home went viral on social media and won hearts across the world.
In his month at home, his parents wrote on his website that he was most excited to be able to attend his little sister Lexi's fourth birthday party, and he was looking forward to his brother Eli's first birthday in August.
Unfortunately, after a seizure last week that sent him to the hospital and a subsequent cardiac arrest, Ari peacefully passed away while listening to his beloved Red Sox play, his parents announced on Ari's Facebook page Friday night.
In an interview in June, Ari's father, Mike Schultz, told TODAY Parents that Ari was diagnosed with a serious heart condition during his mother Erica's 18-week ultrasound while she was pregnant with him; Ari survived two heart surgeries before he was even born.
Last August, Ari's heart began to give out, and he received a heart transplant this spring. The recovery was rough, however: on March 22, Ari's immune system rejected the new heart, and he went into cardiac arrest and was placed on life support. After doctors were able to revive him, he steadily improved, and he was finally released to go home and join his family.
While he was home this summer, Ari was able to visit the neighborhood baseball field, his grandmother's house in Maine, a Grateful Dead tribute band concert ("Ari loves the Dead," his dad said on his blog), and to the U.S. Senior Open so the young sports aficionado could meet some legendary golf heroes.
Ari also had the chance to meet two members of the Boston Red Sox, catcher Christian Vasquez and shortstop Xander Bogaerts. The players made a visit to Ari's home, where they played flag football and baseball with the young Red Sox superfan, read him stories, and invited him to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game in August, when they had hoped Ari would be strong enough to go to the game.
"It was truly a magical day," Ari's father wrote in his blog.
There had been evidence that Ari's heart was still struggling recently, and his father had written that they were taking it one day at a time. But aside from his many medical issues, Ari was still just a little boy who loved lobster races and occasionally fought with his little sister. (During one skirmish this summer, Ari said to her, "When they put the sorting hat on you, I'm confident you'll be placed in Slytherin House," his father reported.)
His father wrote, "Ari’s a special kid for sure. I’m so proud about how he’s grown up. Somehow he figured out how to develop and learn like an almost sorta normal 5-year-old."
But there was nothing "normal" about Ari to the thousands of people who cheered him on the past several months. He will be missed.