South Point man celebrated as Heart Hero

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2023

Conley featured on Cincinnati billboards

CINCINNATI — A South Point man was recently featured in a series of billboards in the Cincinnati area for his story in overcoming the odds.

Andrew Conley, 22, the son of Mike and Michelle Conley, was named as a Heart Hero by Lamar Advertising and his photo was shown on a rotating display on the company’s signs this spring.

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Conley, 22, was born in South Point at Good Samaritan Hospital on March 21, 2001 and with a hypoplasitc heart.

“I was told he would need a heart transplant at two weeks old,” his mother Michelle Conley, said. “I only held him for two seconds before he was transferred to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.”

Conley received a new heart on April 4 of that year and the operation went off successfully.

“Andrew grew up full of joy and laughter, Michelle said. “He could make anyone smile. He was very independent. At age 2, he knew what he wanted and went for it.”

Describing Andrew, who is autistic, at that age, his mother said he started whistling and making music on his own, and loved going to church.

“He would always make sure our stuff was out and ready for Sunday morning,” she said. “He loved his friends, family, school and traveling.”

She said Andrew would get excited to visit the children’s hospital, where staff were like “a second family” to him.

Andrew faced complications in 2004, when he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor the size of a baseball.

“Two days later, he had a tumor in his stomach the size of basketball,” Michelle said. 

She said it was successfully removed and chemo worked, but a tear in Andrew’s stomach caused major issues.

“The doctors said it didn’t look good,” she said and recalled the family was told to say their good-byes. “It was just me and Andrew in the room and the family in the waiting room.”

Michelle said the family began praying.

“I said, ‘I don’t believe God is done,’” she said. “I went to the waiting room told my husband and our family that we were going to get in a circle and pray, and we did. A few minutes later, the doctor came out and said Andrew will be OK. Praise Jesus, who healed my boy.”

After four months in hospital, the family was able to bring Andrew home. 

He went on to preschool and then attended Rock Hill schools, where he graduated. He now attends the Easterseals and PALS adult program in South Point.

Michelle said so many have helped Andrew and the family out along the way.

“We’ve met so many people who are like family,” she said.

She recalled one parent, who recalled Andrew walking the halls in the hospital and the effect it had.

“People came out to hear him laugh,” she said. “His smile gave them hope, one told me.”

Andrew, who celebrated his 20th heart anniversary on April 4, recently attended the Night to Shine prom in Poca, West Virginia. 

Michelle described his life today.

“Andrew still gets our clothes out for Sunday school and church,” she said. “He loves music, plays baseball and love decorating and moving furniture.”

She says he is always joyful “full of energy and in good spirits.”

“God has brought so many people into our lives,” she said of their journey. “Without God, you have nothing.”