April 27, 2018

Today at 3 AM my parents woke me up and unplugged the feeding tube from my G-Tube. I thought “Oh God. Another surgery? I’ll go back to sleep for a few more minutes.” I could hear my dad saying “Yes, yes, thank you. Where do we go? Okay.” My Mom then shook me again. She said “Justin, they have a heart ready for you.” At that moment I jumped out of bed. My heart was here? After 2 weeks? Not 6 years? It was unbelievable!

My Mom didn’t pack much stuff. Inside her bag was her clothes, a phone charger, and Kardia. All I packed was my stuffed teddy bear, Beary. When I got inside my mom’s car, I felt something amazing. Similar to the feeling a mom has before giving birth, I knew that after today my life is going to change. Forever.

My dad followed in his car behind my mom’s car. Lights blurred as they merged on the highway’s scenery. There weren’t many cars on the highway, but I tried to guess the ones that were there why they were driving at 3 AM. The ride was silent since my Mom didn’t say anything. I asked her, “Are you nervous?” She replied, “Yes. Are you?” I said, “Yeah, but mostly excited.” At this point I texted my friends. There were only 3 friends I trusted with my health condition. All of them helped me with my homework when I was gone, listened to me rant about my declining heart disease, and overall pretty good people to hang out with. Each one I texted 2-3 sentences about my transplant and how much I appreciated them.

The hospital seemed majestic that night. When we arrived, the sign that said Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital seemed to glimmer under the moon. I made sure to enjoy the air outside because I knew that I couldn’t breathe it for a while. Inside the garage, I suddenly realized that I should take pictures, so I took pictures of the garage. After meeting up with my Dad, we took the elevator upstairs.

On the ground floor, the receptionist told us that we needed to go to the Treatment Center where most surgeries were performed. However, the Treatment Center was closed. While my Dad tried to call the number that contacted us at 3 AM, I decided to look at the miniature statues of rabbits and turtles on the floor. In my mind, I was thinking, “Is this really happening? What’s going to happen afterwards?” I never thought, “Will I survive?” I knew I was going to survive. I never had any doubt.

We decided to go directly to the PCU (Patient Care Unit). The nurse at the front immediately asked “Are you Justin Wang?” After confirming it was me, she had me take a shower. She explained it was because I wouldn’t be showering for a long time after the surgery. The shower was warm, not too hot or cold. I immediately put on my gown and my dad took a picture of my with a thumbs up. For me, the hardest part of that day was when the nurse put the IV in me. That’s it.

An hour later, they transferred me to the surgery center. At the surgery center was a list of patients and their surgery. There on the top of the list was me: JUSTIN WANG – HEART TRANSPLANT. I was proud of myself, I was going to do something amazing.

At 6 AM came the anesthesiologists. They told me the one IV I had in me was enough. Once I was unconscious they would place multiple IVs and tubes inside of me. They also told me the doctor was preparing for the surgery. I remembered from my transplant education that “the hardest part of the operation is not replacing the heart, but cutting the individual veins.” 7AM was my scheduled surgery time.

Around the same time my sister called me. She was crying because she was so happy for me. I know that since I was in the hospital, my heart failure has impacted her life in a negative way. Even through this she was a good sister, and I really appreciate that.

My friend, Ray, also called me at the same time. He said “I’m so happy for you man. I totally want to visit you after you’re done.” When I heard him say that, I was overjoyed. Ray has been a big supporter in my life. Although he was busy being a genius, he always made time for me and my health. We were in two classes together, both volunteered together, and even spent a weekend in a tiny hotel room in Santa Clara together.

Around 7:30 they told me it was time. They injected some “happy juice” through my IV, and I instantly started laughing. I always liked the “happy juice” because it made me feel happy. I said goodbye to my mom and dad, and they in turn kissed my cheek.

The last thing I thought about was my mom. She’s my biggest supporter in life. She’s my caretaker, best friend, and supporter. Compared to other moms, she’s supermom. When I suggested online school for the next school year, she showed me 3 pamphlets for online school the next day, When I said I didn’t want to go to school, she whipped out her phone and dialed the school’s office. When I was in the hospital, she never left me and always held my hand.

My Mom is probably the biggest sufferer from my medical condition. When I was in the hospital for my first open heart surgery, her dad also died. While my grandfather was being lowered into the ground, I was under the knife. My Mom is so glad that I got a heart transplant. Ever since I was on the list, she started taking anxiety pills.

The operating room doors were the white swinging doors at any standard hospital. When they wheeled me inside the operating room, I remember there being a bright light. The bright light is the end of my memory.

May 5, 2018

A PICC Line was installed today.

A PICC Line is like a more permanent IV. They put it inside of me the same way they put in an IV: with a needle. However, my Mom and I had to wear caps and masks while they did it. The extra protection has something to do with preventing infection.

They took out the IV in my neck. Or was it a blood pressure monitor? Either way I’m glad it’s out. It’s not the most comfortable thing in the world.

They also replaced the gauze and tape covering my chest tube holes. It’s closing nicely.

A big thing: I transferred from ICU (Intensive Care Unit) to PCU (Patient Care Unit) today. The ICU is mainly where you stay if you’re in critical condition and need constant monitoring. The PCU is where you stay if you’re in better condition and have more privacy.

For me, the PCU is my transition phase between surgery and discharge from the hospital. I can’t wait to be discharged from the hospital (see May 15, 2018). Even though I won’t be going home immediately after, I still can’t wait to get discharged.

May 25, 2018

I woke up early today at 7 AM. Today’s my biopsy.

A biopsy is when a tiny machine travels through your veins and grabs a piece of your muscle tissue. I’m having a cardiac biopsy, which means they’re getting muscle tissue from my heart.

They put an IV in me, then injected me with medicine. I’m doing full anesthesia, which means I’ll be put fully to sleep during the procedure.

At my other biospies they can gradually reduce my anesthesia until I don’t use anesthesia anymore. The less anesthesia I use, the faster I can recover and get out of the hospital.

When I woke up, my thighs were orange and there was a band aid over my groin. I had to wait two hours before I could get up again. After those 2 hours, I was discharged from the hospital.

May 27, 2018

My Mom tells me I complain a lot. I complain a lot and still do. I complain about the light sedation for the biopsy but I still did it. I complain about walking but I still do it. I complain about sleep but I still do it. I complain about the IV but I still do it. I complain about the needles but I still do it. They tried 8 times to put 4 IVs in me. I could’ve refused to do the 4 IVs and the nurses doing it, but I still did it!

And can you blame me about complaining a lot? In 1 year I:

  • learned, for the FIRST TIME, that I had a chronic illness for my entire life. This alone would change someone’s life.
  • learned that my heart was failing
  • my normal life was taken away
  • got my first IV
  • was considered for heart transplant
  • missed 1/2 my school year
  • In 8th grade I had an entire plan for my future: where I was going to go for college, how I was going to get there, what my job would be. In 1 year I tossed that all away. It was my dream and I tossed it all away! Now it’s too late to get back on track. I have a B last semester and a C this semester in English because I was in the hospital for 1/2 the entire year.
  • considered transplant by doctors
  • had 3 hospital stays in 3 months in a row
  • considered dropping out of school
  • was listed for transplant
  • got a transplant 2 weeks after listing
  • suffered recovery
  • still suffering recovery

All of this hospital, dying, and pain stuff is new to me. I’m jealous of all the other kids in the Ronald McDonald House because even though they’re like me and suffered like me, they got used to the IVs and hospital stays and surgery and pain. Like how when you get chickenpox you develop an immune system so that next time you won’t get chicken pox. They developed some kind of an immune system against this stuff.

Me, I didn’t KNOW that I even had a right heart ventricle failure until this year. THIS YEAR! That’s 7 months before transplant. It was only 4 months before transplant that it started to sink in that I would not have a normal life anymore. So technically it gave me 4 months to develop this immune system that these kids developed over a couple of years. Then BAM! I didn’t even experience an open heart surgery before, so I had absolutely no immune system for open heart surgery. Then they come in and slap me with the BIGGEST open heart surgery.

Am I not allowed to complain??? It’s the only thing keeping me sane right now. There’s nothing you can do to make this pain go away. It feels good to complain. I don’t know why, but it feels good to complain, so I do it.

November 2, 2018

Today was my doctor’s appointment. Since my Mom is in Paris, I went with my dad instead. We left around 7 AM.

At the doctor’s appointment, I went in for an echo first. An echo is basically an ultrasound for your heart. Then I met with my doctor.

A funny story about my doctor: he knew me since I was a baby. When I was at Kaiser being treated for my hypereosinophilic syndrome, I was his first echo. When I was older and transferred to Stanford, I was also his patient. He said he only knew two people with hypereosinophilia, and I was both of them.

I recited my medication: 1 mg pill of Prograf 2x a day, 360 mg tablet of Cellcept 2x a day, 120 mg capsule of Cardizem 1x a day, and 100 mg of Gleevec 1x a day. If you’re a transplant recipient, you probably know all of them except for Gleevec. By my 3 months post transplant, I got off many drugs, for example Prednisone.

I lost a pound between now and 3 weeks ago. The doctor advised me to eat more protein. Since I am exercising, I’ll burn my calories and gain muscle. I’ll start drinking protein shakes again.

It is 6 months post transplant. Now I’ll only have hospital clinics, echo, and blood draws once a month. I’ll also only have to do biopsies once every 3 months.

I almost left the appointment without getting the flu shot. Since I am fresh out of transplant, I have to get my flu shot in 2 phases. During the last doctor appointment, I had my first dosage. This appointment I got my second dosage.

November 6, 2018

The results from my labs are back. My prograf levels are great. I’ll decrease my prograf to 0.5 mg in the morning and 1 mg in the evening. We’ll check the level in a week.

In other words, my immunosuppressants are working great. My doctors are going to reduce the amount of immunosuppressants I take.

November 14, 2018

I had a blood draw to test my Prograf levels today. Prograf is my immunosuppressant. I regularly test my immunosuppressants because is they’re too effective, the doctors lower its dosage. If it’s not effective enough, the doctors raise the dosage. My Prograf levels are supposed to be between a range, and if they’re not then my Prograf dosages are adjusted.

Here’s my medications (over 6 months post transplant):

8:45 AM8:45 PM
0.5 mg Prograf1 mg Prograf
360 mg Myfortic360 mg Myfortic
100 mg Gleevec120 mg Cardizem

Myfortic is another immunosuppressant. Cardizem is for my blood pressure.

Gleevec is not my transplant medication. Gleevec is my chemotherapy drug that controls my hypereosinophilic syndrome

January 16, 2019

Today was my biopsy.

What is a biopsy? A biopsy is when they take a piece of tissue. For me they take a piece of tissue from my heart to test the amount of rejection I have.

At 8 AM in the morning I went to get a blood draw. The doctors constantly test my blood to see how well my immunosuppressant, Prograf, is working.

I’m not allowed to eat or drink anything. I’ve been NPO (nothing by mouth) since midnight.

At 10 AM my Mom told me that we needed to go to Stanford.

At Mountain View, I dropped off a package to ship to Noah. Noah is my friend I made at the Ronald McDonald House.

The parking garage for the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital was packed. That’s sad.

Every car represents one child. One child in the hospital being treated for something god knows what. And if they’re at Stanford, they’re obviously not here for something as small as a cold.

Inside the hospital, someone stopped me and said that they saw my video. His Mom found the video from the Make-A-Wish website. He said it was “sad but in a good kind of way” and it “made him cry”.

That touched my heart. Honestly, that someone cried because of my video, it made me feel proud. I’m actually making a difference in this world.

At 2 PM I went into Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital short stay unit. I used to go to their surgery center, but now that I’m using less and less anesthesia, I have a faster recovery time. The short stay unit means I have a shorter stay.

I hate placing in IVs. You would think that I would gotten used to the pain, but I haven’t.

I use tons of numbing medicine when they place in the IVs. I still feel the pain. At least the numbing medicine gives me a sense of security.

A child care specialist gave me VR goggles to play with while they put in the needles. VR goggles? I know, VERY fancy.

Honestly, all the VR goggles did was make me extremely anxious for the poke. However, I made sure that there was a hole so that I could see what was going on.

They poked me two times unsuccessfully. The third time they put in an IV. This IV was at the middle of my arm, so I couldn’t bend my arm or anything.

My biopsy was pretty short. I was not unconscious, just kinda high. No pain, just pressure on my thigh.

A doctor came before I was discharged. She told me that I should still be continuously be checking my blood pressure. I haven’t. 😬

I will definitely now. I feel so stupid for not doing that.

The doctor also said I was okay to do weight lifting. Just multiple reps with only light weights. And nothing to do with my scar area.

My Mom doesn’t want me to do weightlifting. She’s rather me do cardio, because she worries about my heart all the time.

We got back home at about 9 PM.