MIDLOTHIAN, Va. -- A California family flew more than 2,800 miles to Richmond to add an additional feline member to their family.
Waylon was just one-month-old when he and his five siblings were dropped off at Richmond Animal League in Midlothian.
"They were all about a little underweight and malnourished," said RAL Spokesperson Kaicee Robertson. "Waylon, we didn’t know had a genetic birth defect at the time."
X-rays would later prove the shorthair mix was born with pectus excavatum - a condition in which the breastbone sinks into the chest.
The deformity often moves the heart and can crush the lungs, if left untreated.
"Even with a very nice discount, Waylon’s surgery was $3,000," Robertson explained. "But, he was lucky to have community support for his surgery."
Sherrie Carreno, who lives with her son Jake in the San Francisco Bay Area, came across an adoption ad for Waylon through an online pectus excavatum support group.
"Jake has two titanium bars in his chest to correct pectus excavatum," Sherrie said. "We found out this also happened to cats through the group."
RAL would then receive an adoption application from the Carrenos, which was unexpected for the area's oldest non-profit “no-kill” organization.
"Once we got the application in we saw they were from California, which was pretty surprising," Robertson said. "California is probably our farthest adoption."
A simple misunderstanding would bring the Carrenos and Waylon together.
"Honestly, I thought it was in Richmond, California," Sherrie laughed. "Once we committed to it and found out he was in Richmond, Virginia it didn’t matter. We decided to get him anyway."
Thursday, the Carrenos flew the 2,800 miles from the west coast to the east coast with the goal of taking Waylon into their family.
"I'm kind of hoping there’ll be some sort of connection between us," Jake said. "It’s kind of dumb, but I know we went through the same chest thing."
The 15-year-old high schooler now runs cross country and is able to play sports thanks to the Nuss procedure, which has allowed him to live a normal life.
Prior to the surgery, Jake felt self-conscious about his "sunken chest" and couldn't keep up with his peers.
"I wouldn’t be able to breathe as much," he said. "Everyone else would be fine, but I would always be out of breath."
"I think it’s kind of cool that there are even animals going through the same thing as me. I didn’t think anyone else in the world had the same thing as me," Jake added.
They plan to meet and adopt Waylon at the Richmond Animal League on Saturday, February 17.
"To me it just speaks to the bond between pets and people and we are really willing to go great lengths for them," Robertson said.