The Journey of a Heart: Las Vegas family looks back at life-saving transplant

Health Watch

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Meet Osker Gamboa, a young Las Vegas boy who survived and is thriving after receiving a heart transplant. The Children’s Heart Center and Foundation helped make his journey possible.

The foundation is dedicated to funding research to help babies born with congenital hearth defects live longer, healthier lives.

‘We all want one common goal, and that’s to win,” said Osker.

The only thing stronger than his will to win is his will to survive.

Four years ago, Osker had a life-saving transplant. His mother, Kim Blas, was told to treat him for asthma growing up, but years passed, and he never got better.

Then, the devastating diagnosis.

“Your son has hypertrophic cardio myopathy, which is a huge word, and we had no idea what it means and said he’s gonna need a heart transplant,” Blas shared.

Congenital heart defects (CHD) are the most common type of birth defect. Each year, one out of nearly 100 babies is born with some type of CHD.

Osker’s only got worse as he got older.

“It’s just thickening of the muscle of the heart,” said Dr. Michael Ciccolo, a surgical specialist for the Children’s Heart Center. “Heart transplants are such valuable resources for a community …You have to ration them to the youngest and most fit, best-suited candidates.”

Less than a thousand pediatric heart transplants are performed worldwide each year. Luckily, the family discovered the Children’s Heart Foundation.

“They provided a ton of emotional support,” said Blas.

The nonprofit walked them through the process and provided resources to prepare for the procedure, which is only done out of state. They waited two years for the call.

“It’s almost like you turn numb because you don’t know how to take your son’s life and put it into somebody’s hands,” Blas explained. “You literally have to let go.”

After a few frightening setbacks and six months at UCLA:

“When you’re given all that negative, you look for the positive,” said Osker. “That’s kind of how I’ve gotten through it.”

The family came home, and Osker began a new life with a new heart. We asked how he felt now and what it’s been like, to which he replied:

“It’s been great … I can take my dogs to the park. I ride my bike to and from wherever I need to go. It’s really awesome not having that worry, like having to live a normal teenager life.”

And that’s all a parent could ask for, too.

The donor family has a choice of whether or not they want to connect with the person who received their loved one’s organs. Right now, they’re not ready, but Kim and Osker really hope to meet them one day and learn about the person who saved his life.

Osker’s inspiring story is one of many you’ll hear during American Heart Month.

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