Hello, my name is Adrian Carrasco, and I am a Heart Failure Survivor and Transplant Warrior.
April 22, 1998 is the day everything changed for my parents, Ramon & Bertha Carrasco. On that day, my parents’ lives and future was about to be like something you see in movies or read in books that you just can’t seem to believe it’s real and are positive the story was 100% unrealistic.
On January 3, 1996, in Liberal, KS, I was brought into this world, as many thought, a healthy baby. However, that was far from the truth which my family would learn over the next several years. My parents were in and out of doctors’ offices on and off for 2 years trying to find out what was wrong with me. No one really knew what was wrong, they just knew something was not right. Every day, I would have a bloated stomach, not want my bottle, and breath like I had just run a mile. Finally, after realizing I was not getting any better, one doctor sent my parents to see a specialist in Wichita, KS. It didn’t take long for the doctors to realize that the issue was with my heart. That same day, I was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado.
While in Colorado in the hospital, the heart team continued tests and worked to find what was going on with my heart. They finally pinpointed the issue, and I was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Dilated Cardiomyopathy is caused by a narrowing or blockage in the coronary arteries and causes the heart to enlarge. At this point, there was no medication or treatment that would be able to help me. My only option was a heart transplant. For a heart transplant to happen, there must be a matching heart for you and your body. At 2 years old, the chances of finding a heart that would meet all the qualifications is slim to none. This low percentage chance of me getting a heart could have made my parents lose hope and faith in the Lord. However, that is one thing my parents did not do. Sure enough, on April 22, 1998, was the day my parents got the news they so long waited for…the doctors had found a matching heart and they needed to do the surgery right away before the heart goes bad. It had only been one and half months of waiting for a heart.
When the 9+ hour surgery was all done, now the million-dollar question was “Did the Heart Transplant work?” Hours after surgery, I am told no one could believe how quickly my new heart was already making a difference. I went from not being able to eat or drink anything and not having the energy to even play with toys like a normal 2-year-old to now, after surgery, asking for food and wanting to jump around and not know what to do with all my new energy. I spent another 6 months in the hospital so they could monitor my new heart and make sure I was safe to go home. Although the transplant seemed to work and I was not showing signs of rejection, the tough part was just ahead for me in the coming years.
One of the challenges growing up as a transplant warrior was that I was not treated like a normal kid. In elementary school and intermediate school, teachers would not let me do the regular physical activities that the other kids were doing. They knew my history and because of that, they were always cautious and wanted me safe. I just wanted to be like the other kids. I often felt like the ugly duckling left behind for everything. My doctors wanted to play it safe and would not allow me to take part in anything physical such as sports, PE, Recess, or even field trips that had to do with a lot of walking and being outside in the sun. I felt worthless and would tell myself that is life was boring and wished I was just like the normal kids in my school. After talking to my parents and begging them to please just let me do all the normal things kids my age do, my mom reached out to my cardiologist and explained how I felt. I still remember the day the doctor asked me what restrictions I would like him to take off and my answer shocked him as I said, ‘ALL MY RESTRICTIONS”. I felt normal and I wanted to be normal and treated like I was normal.
Once the doctor signed off on that, I felt like a trapped bird was just let out from his cage…I FELT FREE!! Although I was able to do a lot more without all the restrictions, I had to have more checkups to make sure my heart was handling all the extra activities I was doing. My favorite of those activities was playing baseball. The first couple years of being able to do sports was challenging. The coaches were cautious, just like my previous teachers had been and I felt they were not treating me like the other players. They would encourage me to take a water break when the other kids were still practicing. I felt singled out and I did not like it. I felt embarrassed and just wanted to be treated like the other players. Finally, one day I stood up for myself with my coaches. I told them that I could play this game AND be careful and take care myself as well. I explained that I did not need them to treat me differently than the other kids. In speaking up for myself, I realized that I did in fact have to face the truth that I was a heart transplant warrior that did need to be careful and listen to my body and that it could be dangerous to do some of the things that I wanted to do. I realized that I was not just like every other kid, but that did not make me any less nor did it mean I had to keep restrictions on myself either. As the years passed, I continued to play baseball, soccer, football, basketball, and even did track a couple years. I played sports from middle school until the day I graduated high school.
Now I’m 27 years old and happily married to my wife, Marilyn Carrasco. She keeps me in line and gets on to me when I do not take my medications on time. I am also trying to be the best dad I can be to our beautiful daughter, Anaissa Carrasco. One thing I have learned from all this is a determination to not let anything hold me back and to live my best life. I have a family, run a business, and enjoy life. I truly believe that if I can overcome and have a good life, anyone can if they are determined. Every day, I thank the Lord for everything He has brought me through and for the people that were by my side since my heart transplant journey. My brother, Nestor, and sister, Olivia, never made me feel out of place and would encourage me to be me. I still have checkups every 6 months with my heart team in Colorado, get labs drawn every 3 months locally, and take about 6 meds daily to make sure my heart stays strong and there is no rejection. Every time I bring my story up to doctors and cardiologist, they can’t believe that it is about to be 25 years since my heart transplant, and I have had no complications or my body rejecting my heart. This new heart that the Lord decided to give me has grown with me all these years. Many have said, including myself, “I AM A WALKING MIRACLE!!!”
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