By Jill Cowan
8:08 PM PST, January 30, 2013
A Costa Mesa teen diagnosed with congestive heart failure in November returned home with a new heart Tuesday, after three months chained to an artificial pumping device in UCLA Medical Center's intensive care unit.
"It felt weird, but it felt great," Ezekiel "Zeke" Kendall said of his homecoming. "I hung around downstairs and talked to everybody I hadn't seen in so long."
His siblings visited, Kendall said. His sister, Amber Weiser, played him the "Rocky" theme as he got out of the car.
"And then I slept," he added, a little weariness lingering in his voice.
Kendall, 19, said the transplant, which he received Jan. 20, went smoothly, all things considered. So far, he hasn't had any rejection symptoms and an initial biopsy looked good.
"Usually, in the first tests there's a little rejection, and I didn't have any, so that's fantastic," he said.
Kendall's father, Dusty, said that while he's "ecstatic" to have his son home, the transplant process was nerve-wracking.
"You don't know it's actually going to happen until it happens," he said. "With organ transplants, they make you an offer when there's a donor available, and they don't know if your heart's going to be compatible to you, and you're waiting until you find out."
Now that he's home, Zeke Kendall said, it's a matter of following a strict, low-sodium, low-sugar diet and keeping on top of his anti-rejection medications — though he'll still likely to need another transplant.
Staying healthy could mean that surgery won't come for another 25 years, rather than five years, Dusty Kendall said.
Weiser said the family is still raising money for the surgery and medication.
Through the Children's Organ Transplant Assn., they've raised about $14,000.
She said they hope to raise more at an auction event Feb. 21, hosted by Mario Lopez and Maria Menounos at Mixology in Los Angeles.
Given Zeke Kendall's history of bouncing back, his mother, Birdie Kendall, said she's confident he'll continue to a full recovery. He estimated he'd be functioning normally in about six months.
"Dark as it's been," Birdie Kendall said, "there have also been beautiful moments. We give so much thanks to the donor, but also to the SynCardia, the artificial heart.
"We're living in an age of amazing technology."
For more information about the fundraiser, go to cotaforzekek.com.