Da'Realis Dennard is finally back home and feeling like himself again, but the 17-year-old almost died of heart failure, spending over three months in a South Florida hospital.
“He was complaining about heart pain and shortness of breath and then once he got to the hospital, everything kind of went downhill very quickly," said his mother, Lakesha Prichard.
Dennard has a rare genetic condition called Kearns-Sayre syndrome, which can cause muscular issues, especially affecting the eyes and heart. Basically, his heart was too weak to work on its own and he was having severe heart failure.
"When we met him he was having a hard time walking and talking, eating and really doing all of the things we take for granted. Our evaluation was performed and we found that he had something called Left Ventricular Non-Compaction Cardiomyopathy which is when the heart muscle doesn’t form well and doesn’t squeeze well," said Dr. Svetlana Shugh, a pediatric heart failure and transplant cardiologist at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital.
Get South Florida local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC South Florida newsletters.
After he was transferred from another hospital, Shugh stepped in and helped Dennard find a life-saving solution.
“We were able to use something called a heart mate 3 LVAD or heart pump to implant into his heart. It’s all inside and he just has a cable that comes out and connects to a controller and batteries. Essentially a power source," said Shugh.
The teen is the first pediatric patient in Florida to receive the small, implantable device. Dennard said he immediately noticed a difference in his quality of life and has been able to be home and go to the store and school.
"Before, every night I would go to sleep and my chest would be hot and I would be uncomfortable and couldn’t go to sleep, but after the surgery that just all went away," said Dennard.
He also got back to doing his favorite thing, playing video games.
"To be honest, the first thing I did was figure out how to hook up my Xbox," said Dennard.
Dennard and his mother said it wasn't easy, but they're grateful they made the choice to get the surgery.
"The love and support just made it much easier for us to get through this process. It was hard, but they helped us out a lot. It’s still a healing process, but I got my son back. I advise anyone that needs it to get it because it changed our life. It really has," said Prichard.
“If it helps you live longer, then why not? No regrets," said Dennard.
Doctors are further evaluating Dennard to see if he would be a good candidate for a full on heart transplant in the future, but they say the LVAD device is a step in the right direction.