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What Were You Doing in 1996?


Michael Young, Heart Transplant Patient, Coach
Monica Horn, RN, CCRN-K, CCTC

Children's Hospital Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA, USA
Mhorn@chla.usc.edu



It was the 1990's. Beanie Babies, Power Rangers, Tickle Me Elmo, and the first round of Pokémon were the rage! Do you remember when Starbuck's started making Frappuccinos, PlayStation was released and eBay made its debut?

Recently, when we informally surveyed colleagues regarding what they did in 1996, most seemed to need to pause and think carefully to remember. Many referred to school, medical fellowships or described just getting into childhood mischief. Life is certainly unpredictable. Sometimes it includes unexpected detours that disrupt our best laid plans.

Ah yes, the 1990's...ventricular assist devices were continuing to move beyond research and becoming more of a reality. 14 year old Michael had been diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy as a young child but his parents had kept him stable with regular visits to his cardiologist at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). However, by 1995, things began to change. He began to feel more tired, short of breath with activities, and loss of appetite. When oral heart failure medications were maximized, and he still showed signs of getting worse, he was admitted to the CTICU to receive intravenous inotropes and was listed for heart transplantation.

As the weeks passed he began to decline. CHLA's affiliated USC Cardiothoracic Surgery adult program (shared surgical talent) had already been implanting ventricular assist devices (VADs) but the VADs available/in use were precisely that.…for adults. The HeartMate LVAD (released by the FDA 1994) was considered for him because the 14 year old male was large enough to likely benefit from its support. We at CHLA worked with our adult hospital team to implant the device by January 1996.

The 63 days awaiting transplant weren't all "bad". After all, he was able to walk a bit and even go to the garden, with one of his many trustworthy nurses, to see some scenery other than the inside of the CTICU. It was actually during an excursion to the garden that Michael noticed some blood from his driveline site. He was taken to the OR urgently for a repair at the aortic site. Like the true champion, Michael recovered.

His loyal family visited as much as possible all the while working to keep their home and family intact. His mother became well known to the guest relations personnel and nursing staff. The strongly quiet, well-mannered teenager was amazing to us all.

"OMG! ", we exclaimed ...but without text capability back then. A donor call came in and Michael got his heart transplant in March of 1996. Recovery: not an easy task by any means, especially after having that chest open again, but nevertheless, he did it!

Always compliant with the medical plan, he kept his clinic appointments to see his cardiologists and took his immunosuppression as ordered...but who is it that ALL transplant kids really want to see again? The surgeon, of course! So, on a clinic visit, Michael and I figured we could catch the surgeon for a quick greeting. No cameras on our mobile phone yet in the 90's, but we just happened to have a camera with us and...Gotcha!

One of the first heart transplant patients in our institution to "transition" to an adult center, Michael was well into his twenties...not that unusual back then...when he transferred to the age-appropriate facility and team. Although it is never possible to accurately depict in writing, the extreme challenges our transplant patients and their families have faced, some do stand out in our memories as exemplary STARS for the way they have met and overcome life's obstacles.

Michael has been busy. A security guard and a softball coach for many years, he more recently has been pursuing a real estate business with his sister. He contacted us a few months ago and gave an impressive talk on his experience as a transplant patient on behalf of Donor Awareness Day. His old cardiologist and his old coordinator (yes, we are still here) attended. His surgeon was busy in the Operating Room...however, we managed to snap a photo of the two via current technology (iPhone) as the surgeon went between cases. By the way, Happy 20th Transplant Anniversary Michael: Way To Go, Coach!!!!!

Disclosure Statement: The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.




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