After weeks of being on the waiting list for a transplant, New Kent High School sophomore Juan Mikel-Jones underwent successful heart transplant surgery Wednesday at University Hospital in Charlottesville.
New Kent High School Principal Christopher Valdrighi received a long-awaited phone call from Juan’s father Tuesday evening letting him know the student was suddenly moved to the top of the list for a heart transplant.
“The first words he said were ‘Juan got his heart,’ ” Valdrighi said. “They actually started prepping him Tuesday night to do the surgery on Wednesday.”
Juan was recently diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy after he started coughing and developed a bad cold just a few weeks ago.
Valdrighi visited the hospital on the day of the surgery to support Juan and his family.
“When I got there, Juan was already in surgery,” Valdrighi said. “They began the procedure at about nine that morning. The doctors would call out and give his dad updates about once every hour. They would say that the surgery is progressing, and everything is going the way we want it to go.”
Valdrighi said the surgery was an all-day event for Juan’s family, and the surgery lasted about 12 to 13 hours. Valdrighi heard from Juan’s father later Wednesday night his son was out of surgery and that it was successful.
Juan’s father has been keeping Valdrighi and the community updated on his recovery.
“His father said that Juan was good. Obviously he’s recovering from a heart transplant,” Valdrighi said. “The plan is that he will probably be in the hospital there at University Hospital for about another three weeks as they continue to monitor him and make sure everything is working the way it should. Then after that, he will attend a cardiac rehabilitation facility there for about a month.”
Best case scenario, Juan can come home and return to school by mid-March, Valdrighi said.
“Every time I talk to dad or I talk to Juan or I go visit, it’s always stressed just how bad Juan wants to get home,” Valdrighi said. “Whenever he has a visitor he perks up a lot, especially when people come from home to visit him.
“We have Skyped some of his classmates during the school day, so he can see his classmates and friends,” Valdrighi said. “We want him back here as badly as he wants to be back here.”
Valdrighi said it’s a miracle Juan received a heart transplant so quickly.
“It was based on his ability to be a good candidate and his rank of need,” Valdrighi said. “Being young and strong, that probably helped his ability to get one.
“Some people wait years for an opportunity to find a match,” he said. “For him to get his in a matter of days is absolutely and truly a miracle.
“We certainly appreciate all the support and if anyone wants to help out in any way they can contact the school,” Valdrighi said. “It’s a long and expensive process and we just want to do whatever we can to support him and his family.”