Wilfre is restless in the Johns Hopkins All Children’s cardiovascular intensive care unit. He misses his favorite sport, so he asks his mom to bring in a soccer ball.
Soon, he finds himself kicking the ball in the hallway just outside his room with two of the most important people in his life. About a week earlier, James Quintessenza, M.D., and Awais Ashfaq, MBBS, were part of a team that had given Wilfre a new heart.
The cardiac surgeons are pleased with Wilfre’s progress after the heart transplant. They encouraged me to get up and play some soccer,” Wilfre says.
Just days before Christmas, 15-year-old Wilfre, who had seemed healthy, was fighting for his life. His heart was failing, and he was put on the most aggressive form of life support called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). In the end, Wilfre needed a heart transplant to save his life.
“I don't think he remembered what all he had gone through prior to transplant, and to see how much he had improved was very rewarding,” Ashfaq says. “It was heartwarming to see him get motivated by what he loved and it was good to connect with him at that level.”
“It was truly incredible to see him kicking the soccer ball a few weeks after he was literally a heartbeat away from not being with us,” Quintessenza says.
Working with cardiologist Alfred Asante-Korang, M.D., FACC, Wilfre will begin working toward taking his game out of the hallway and back onto the field. But this “first practice” will remain with him forever.
“It was awesome!” Wilfre exclaims.