A heart transplant did not stop a heart full of faith in Jesus.
Jack G. Radandt
I was born with a congenital heart disease called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. This disease meant that the main pumping chamber of my heart, the left ventricle, was completely useless. By the age of three, I had had three open heart surgeries—my Norwood, Glenn, and Fontan—at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
After my Fontan surgery, I led a fairly normal life. I was able to go to school, play sports, and generally keep up with the other kids my age.
A failing heart
This all changed at the age of 11. I realized something was different. I was getting increasingly tired with every passing day. I was retaining fluid, and I could not keep up with the other kids. It was clear to everyone that I no longer was able to do all the things I used to do. After an impromptu appointment at Children’s Hospital, I was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure and was admitted into the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.
In the hospital, my heart quickly failed, and I needed to be placed on the heart transplant list. Needing a heart transplant at 11 years old was not something I thought about before. Deteriorating in the hospital was a turning point in my life. I was not sure if I would live to see the next day.
That thought brought me closer to the grace of God. I began to appreciate how important life is. He gave me my life, and I really appreciated the eternal life he also gives me. I had taken that life for granted before my heart failure, but now I realized how blessed I am to have faith in him. I knew that if I did die that I would see him in heaven.
The doctors and nurses decided that I probably would not survive until I could receive a heart transplant. If I did survive, they thought that I was probably too sick to receive a heart anyway. They only had one option to keep me alive. They decided to place a HeartWare ventricular assist device (HVAD) in my heart to pump my heart for me. I was the first single ventricle child in the United States to receive this device and the second in the world. I received my HVAD on Dec. 23, 2012.
A heartbreaking experience
Not long after I received this lifesaving device, I struggled with the largest trial I had to face in my life.
Late on Jan. 1, 2013, my favorite doctor came into my room to tell me some exciting news. She told me that there was a heart for me, and I would probably have a heart transplant around 3 a.m. the following day. I could hardly contain my excitement.
Then 3 a.m. came and went, and no one came in to say I was ready to go. I began to get worried, and my suspicions were correct. After further examination of my antibodies after the HVAD surgery, the doctors realized that the heart they originally thought would work for me was no longer eligible for my body.
As you can imagine, this was a heartbreaking experience. I could not understand why God did not just give me that heart, why I had to suffer longer, and why I was still stuck in a hospital room away from home and my prior life.
I was in the hospital another month and a half before I was sent home on the HVAD. This made me the first child on earth to go home on this device.
Home presented issues of its own. Losing the safety of the hospital, the doctors, and the monitors posed mass anxiety for me. I was afraid that my machine would stop in the middle of the night and no one would hear it. I was afraid without monitors I would die, and there would be no one to save me.
But none of this happened, and the longer I was on the HVAD the more the Lord allowed my life to return to normal. I was able to leave my home and was even able to go to school part time. Changing batteries and watching my driveline just became part of my daily routine. Life on my HVAD became normal to me.
Even so, my anxiety did not leave me, and I constantly needed to remind myself that my life was not in my own hands or even in any doctor’s hands. My life was solely in the hands of God. He would ultimately choose whether I was to live or I was to be called home. This trust in the Lord allowed me to find comfort even in my most troubling and sickest times. I knew that whatever happened to me, I would remain in the Lord and that one day I would be with him.
A heart transplant
On May 20, 2013, my life was drastically altered once again. My parents received a call from Children’s Hospital saying there was a heart for me. My whole family quickly rushed down to Milwaukee. When I got there, the process of getting me prepared for surgery only took about an hour. I was sent into the operating room and finally received my negative crossmatch—a perfect heart. After my transplant, I was in the hospital only 11 days until I was sent home. My journey with end-stage heart failure was finally complete.
But I will never be cured, and the trials with my heart are far from over. Now it is nearly six years later, and through these years I have had many complications. However, in each one of them I looked to God. All my experiences in the hospital have brought me closer to him and have allowed me to grow in my faith.
I am not upset for having to go through my difficulties of heart failure. I am grateful.
I thank God for giving me a congenital heart disease, and I thank him for allowing me still to be here. I know Christ is in control of all things and that all of our lives are in his hands.
All of my experiences have taught me to look to him for help and comfort in any trial I may face and to trust that the Lord has his plans, plans that give me—and all of us—hope and a future.
Author: Jack G. Radandt
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019