Local News

Teen awaits heart transplant at UNC Children's Hospital

Posted February 16, 2016

— About 300 children in the United States are awaiting a heart transplant. One of the teens at the top of the list is waiting in Chapel Hill.

Thirteen-year-old Albert Jeffries and his mother have been at UNC Children’s Hospital for 77 days awaiting news on a possible heart transplant.

Jeffries, who goes by the nickname, “Al-J,” can tell people about his favorite Xbox game—Destiny: The Taken King—but he can also talk about the slow drip of fluid invading his body.

He spends every day in Room 5-C 23 at the UNC Children’s Hospital, waiting for positive news.

“The hardest part is just wondering when I’m going to be getting my heart,” Jeffries said.

Jeffries has been waiting for a new heart since he was a newborn. At four months old, doctors found that he had an enlarged and weak heart.

“The doctors even told us, he’s not going to survive the night,” said Jeffries’ mother, Tina Turner.

Jeffries’ cardiologist, Dr. Scott Buck, said his condition is grave.

For most of his life, Jeffries managed the disease with a few hospital stays and outpatient treatments. But in December, his heart began to weaken like never before and he’s been in the hospital ever since.

“We really exhaust all of the conventional medical therapeutic options before offering transplant, and that’s where Al-J is now,” Buck said.

The IV drip—Milrinone—is keeping Jeffries’ heart pounding.

“As the days go by and the Milrinone keeps dripping, I wonder what’s going on inside of his body,” Turner said. “Is his body going to be able to hold out?”

Jeffries says he continues to encourage his mother to hold on to hope.

“[I tell her] not to worry, and I’m still here OK and stable,” he said. “And I’m still going to be here.”

A Facebook page—Team Al-J—was created to support and give updates on Jefferies.

“Al-J is what keeps me strong, and I hear people say, ‘Hey, How do you do it? You’ve had a son sick for 14 years. How do you stay strong, girl? I don’t know how you do it,’” Tuner said. “And I’m like, ‘He’s the one who keeps me strong.’”

Doctors say once Jeffries receives a new heart, his chances of not only surviving, but thriving, are high. The waiting period could be anywhere from days to months.


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  • Jason Dragos Feb 19, 2016
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    We saw Al-J's story and really wanted to do something to bring a smile to his face. So we got people to encourage him from all over the world! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAH1j9wh3bw

  • Michael Clay Feb 17, 2016
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    Bless this young man Lord.

  • Fanny Chmelar Feb 17, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    Given 100 living compatible donors, one of them must die in order for him to receive a heart.

    A person must die in order for Al-J to live.
    If Al-J didn't need a heart, that one person in a hundred must die for someone else to live.

    A donor must die in order to save another's life.

  • Brandon White Feb 17, 2016
    user avatar

    Well put Cris. You are in our prayers Al-J, Keep the faith and here is to your having a new heart soon:)

  • Cris Dopher Feb 16, 2016
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    It's not in the text posted on the web, but the reporter's speech in the broadcast included the phrase that ALJ's family knows that "somebody, somewhere, has to die so that [ALJ] may live."

    It's a popular notion, but not accurate. Whoever eventually donates his/her heart to ALJ is going to meet their untimely end; there is no averting this destiny. But this person isn't dying IN ORDER to save ALJ's life - this isn't a trade. If ALJ did not need a heart, that person will still die. It is a silver lining that part of that person can live on in ALJ.

    If there is any causal relationship, it's more correct to say that "someone will say Yes to organ donation so that others may live." You can't personalize the donor-donee relationship beyond that.

    If this is going to run at 10, I urge you to re-record that part of the voiceover. I also urge you to put a link onscreeen to Carolina Donor Services and mention the need for more registered organ donors.