Local News

Teen awaits heart transplant at UNC Children's Hospital

Posted February 16, 2016 5:06 p.m. EST
Updated February 16, 2016 6:50 p.m. EST

— 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.