Dr. Nigro says. “He’ll have to follow up with the team and take chronic medications. Assuming he does that well and we do our job well, he’ll do well long-term.” His mom agrees: “You look at him now and you would never know he went through all he did.” Nemo spent his first day out of Rady Children’s playing basketball. “I’ll be able to do anything I want to do,” he says. After spending several months in San Diego for follow-up visits with the Rady Children’s team, Nemo and his family will soon resume their normal lives back in Arizona. “We couldn’t have asked to be at a better place—we were meant to be here,” Lopez says. “They tell you exactly what’s going on and what’s happening with your child. We were with them so much that we miss seeing them every day! You truly become a team.” The family also recognizes that Nemo would not be here today if not for the donor and the donor’s family, who saved his life. “It’s such a bittersweet feeling,” Lopez says, “because you’re so happy to know your son is going to feel better and be able to walk and breathe again, but you can’t help thinking about the donor’s family and what they’re going through. My son would like to meet them.” Now 13, Nemo sounds beyond his years when he reveals what he’d like to say to the donor’s family: “Thanks for giving me life. They had to lose someone to save me. But they live on in me.” “They tell you exactly what’s going on and what’s happening with your child. We were with them so much that we miss seeing them every day!”
Nemo’s family put their faith in Rady Children’s and trusted that he was in good hands. The 13-year-old received a new heart and kidneys and is now on the road to recovery.
only get the heart, or if he’d get both. It was clear to the team that he would have a better chance of survival if he had both, so we embarked on a path to do it safely and effectively. We made it clear to his family that this would be a first at Rady Children’s, and they put their faith in us. That was very important.” Dr. Nigro adds: “Nemo was in a complicated situation, and we didn’t think he’d do well without both the heart and the kidneys. He would need a kidney transplant eventually anyway.” Doing both transplants at the same time meant that the organs could come from the same donor, which reduces the risk of rejection and reduces the likelihood that Nemo would need dialysis in the future. Dr. Nigro and Dr. Ingulli worked collaboratively with other members of the Hospital’s transplant team, including experienced transplant surgeons from UC San Diego, to coordinate the complex surgeries. On Feb. 8, 2022, Nemo
received his new heart. A day later, his new kidneys were transplanted. Nemo was discharged on March 11, 2022. He has since been on the road to recovery and a bright, healthy future—a future he’ll never take for granted. “One day I was in a hospital in Arizona, and the next day I woke up in a different room in California,” he recalls. “I was really confused about what was going on. I couldn’t move my neck. I couldn’t talk or move at all; I was in a bed paralyzed and didn’t know what to do. Today, I appreciate everything everyone has done for me.” While his doctors are still uncertain what caused his heart to fail—an infection, perhaps, or a genetic condition that progressively worsened without symptoms—they say Nemo’s prognosis is excellent. “We expect Nemo to have a great quality of life and be able to do all normal activities,”
26 HEALTHY KIDS MAGAZINE SUMMER 2022
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