South Florida teen on road to recovery after getting heart transplant

Christian Orejuela diagnosed with myocarditis after getting common cold

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – For the first two months of his life, Christian Orejuela was a healthy baby. Then, an infection with the common cold caused him to develop a condition called myocarditis.

"Basically, what that meant is it gave me an enlarged heart," Christian said. 

For many years, with the help of special medications, Christian lived a fairly normal life.

"I mean, I couldn't do anything physically straining, but I could do some things. I was in the Boy Scouts, actually, and could do basic camping and whatnot," he said. 

But as Christian continued to grow, so did his heart -- to the point where it was close to failing. 

"I was hospitalized five to six times in the span of three months," Christian said. 

When he checked into Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital last June, the situation was dire.

"He needed a transplant, or he would die. Fortunately, advancements allow us to help these kids with transplants," Dr. Maryanne Chrisant said. 

After 94 days in the hospital, Christian's mom got the call in September that a donor had come through.

"It was a really special moment, because for the first couple of seconds, I freaked out, but after a couple of seconds, I understood her tone and I was like, 'Oh my God. I got my heart,'" Christian said.  

Shortly after the surgery, Christian was listening to the beat of his new heart, and by the start of 2018, he was back in school.

"It was the gift of life that let me keep on going," Christian said. 

This weekend, Christian will serve as the ambassador for Joe DiMaggio's ninth annual Tour de Broward fundraising event. 

The event begins at 7 a.m. Sunday at Miramar Regional Park.


About the Author: