Boy, 13, Gets Heart Transplant After 99 Days in the Hospital: 'I Feel Like a New Person'
Albert "Alj" Jeffries, 13, had been in the ICU for 99 days, waiting patiently for a heart transplant. The wait has been rough on his body and spirit, and his mom, Tina Turner, decided to throw him a party for his 100th day.
She invited everyone who has been supportive throughout his illness to join them in the UNC Children's Hospital for the party. She ordered balloons and a cake that read: "Keep Pounding".
On the 100th day, Turner cancelled the party. Alj was about to get a heart.
The Chapel Hill, North Carolina mother could barely contain herself when she broke the news to her son. She sobbed, and a friend in the next room filmed Alj's reaction to the news.
"I'm getting a heart? What's going on?" Alj can be heard saying in the video. "What's going on? What's going on?" he repeated, until finally, after the video cuts off, he breaks down crying, Turner told InsideEdition.com.
"We thought he was going to pass out, he was gasping for air," Turner said later, and said his reaction was a mixture of shock and disorientation.
But Alj knew exactly what was going on when he awoke from the surgery. "I feel like a new person," Alj can be heard saying from a video.
Turner said she had been sobbing since she was told the news at the nail salon. Alj had an especially hard day and needed a break from all the attention.
"Alj called me and he said, 'Mom, they just took my shrimp away. They said I can't eat no more," Turner told IE.com. "I was about to lose my mind. They knew how anxious I was."
She immediately called the hospital to get some more information. She said the transplant coordinator had been out for the day, and representative after representative was passing along the phone until finally, someone on the other line said: "They're prepping him [for surgery]."
Turner could hardly contain herself when she exclaimed the good news in the middle of the nail salon. A woman sitting beside her caught her reaction on camera as the whole salon cheered, clapped, and cried for her.
As the salon celebrated with her, one woman approached her, and opened up the top of her shirt, Turner recalled. The woman said to her, "Everybody who has had a heart transplant are heroes. Including me."
But the journey to getting a transplant heart did not come easy for the family. Turner told IE.com that the last few months were "grueling on his body", especially through several bouts of heart irregularities.
"We've been doing this for 13 years. I never count the amount of ICU stays, echoes, EKG's," Turner said. "I just knew that I wanted to be there for my son 'till the end, whether it was the heart [transplant] or death."
Turner said that each time Alj was readmitted to the hospital, she did not hesitate to take time off to be by his side, saying: "When Alj was out, mommy was out."
He was also excluded from most athletic activities throughout his childhood, including running, swimming, biking, and contact sports, but luckily, his friends were still cheering him on.
"[His friends] always watch out for him. I never worry about him when he's outside," Turner said.
Currently, Turner told IE.com that Alj is in dialysis for an unexpected kidney complication. Their stay in the ICU will be longer than previously expected, but she expects Alj to leave the hospital fully recovered in about a month.
When he does finally regains a clean bill of health, Turner hopes they will be able to get a trampoline and a basketball hoop for their home.
"I want him to do whatever his heart desires."