I’ve had asthma and chronic lung disease since I was very young. I had to use everything — from my head to my toes — to help me breathe. I remember being able to hear myself wheezing, to feel my lungs rattling. I had marks all over my face from my oxygen mask. I thought I would never be clear of mucus and never be able to walk without being out of breath.
Nearly six months following a heart-lung transplant, Nicole Kouri makes a triumphant return to school, alongside her twin sister Isabella. It was a pact she made with her Dad back in August of 2015, while her friends were lying by the pool, soaking up the final days of summer, and Nicole was lying in a bed at Boston Children’s Hospital.
14-year-old Nicole was born with a ventricular septal defect (VSD) — otherwise known as a hole in the heart — and pulmonary hypertension, a serious condition associated with VSD that makes it difficult for blood to flow properly through the lungs.
So what does it take to perform 13 transplants in 17 days?
“It takes a team,” says Dr. Heung Bae Kim, director of the Boston Children’s Pediatric Transplant Center. “We are very fortunate to have the talent and the resources necessary, so that when we call and say, ‘We have this many kids coming in for transplants,’ the team is ready, no matter what.”
Sixteen-year-old TJ Gregory is one of the lucky 13. He received a heart transplant in mid-January. He had been on the waiting list since October. Born with a serious heart defect called transposition of the great arteries, in which two main arteries leaving the heart are reversed, TJ has struggled with heart issues his entire life. At 40 days old, he had already undergone two open-heart surgeries.
“I was watching a playoff game on TV when Dr. [Elizabeth] Blume (medical director, Boston Children’s Heart Transplant Program) called and asked what I was doing,” says TJ’s dad Todd Gregory, “I told her I was watching the game and she said, ‘Do you think you could get it on the radio?’ As soon as she said that, I knew. I knew TJ had a heart.” …
Twenty-two-year-old Bobby Donovan was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) at 4 months old. He was relatively healthy for someone with CF. However, in November of 2008 his health began to deteriorate. Every three months or so, he was admitted to Boston Children’s Hospital for two to four weeks at a time. In April of 2014, with his lungs not expected to last the year, Bobby received the double lung transplant, which not only saved, but transformed his life. One year following surgery, he shares his remarkable story.