Kevin Wong’s six-year wait for a healthy heart has finally come to a happy end.
In Ezekiel 36:26, the Lord said to Israel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
This verse quite literally came to pass for Kevin Wong, 27, a service engineer who suffered a life-threatening heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. In the early hours of Jun 26 this year, he received a call that a new heart was waiting for him.
Dilated cardiomyopathy often starts in the left ventricle of the heart that operates as the main pumping chamber. The heart muscle begins to dilate and causes the inside of the chamber to enlarge. Eventually, the heart muscle cannot contract normally to pump the blood well, resulting in a weakened heart or fatal heart failure.
In 2012, Wong, then a tertiary student, had a near-death experience after a steamboat dinner. Upon experiencing extreme stomach pains, he was rushed to the hospital where doctors discovered his heart was only functioning at 25 percent. He had an operation right away to have a pacemaker fitted, but the pacemaker did not help—Wong fell into a coma. His doctors then implanted a mechanical heart device, the Heartmate II, to help his heart pump more efficiently. Wong regained consciousness, and eventually was able to go back to some semblance of a normal life—he could go to school, but he was forced togive up basketball, a sport for which he lived.
The average waiting period for a heart transplant is 18 months. But due to the large size of Wong’s heart and the difficulty involved in finding a suitable heart for him, his wait has been four times as long. On top of that, Wong experienced some medical complications beyond his heart failure that affected his functioning, including a burst brain vessel last year.
It has been a most challenging journey for the young man, but through it all, he kept his faith. Despite his physical limitation, the City Harvest Church member is also a member of the Drama Ministry backstage crew and is always happy to serve. He also occasionally volunteers with CHC’s service for the intellectually-disabled, Jesus for All Minds (JAMs).
When City News Weekly interviewed Wong last year, he boldly declared “Jesus died to save us and by His stripes, we are healed.” His faith has made him well.
THE MIDNIGHT CALL
On Jun 26, a nurse from Singapore General Hospital called him in the middle of the night to inform that they might have found a suitable heart for him. Sleepy and disoriented though he was, Wong was exhilarated at receiving the call despite waking up from his sleep halfway. But he was also cautious—he had received a similar call a week before and it turned out to be a false alarm, which was bitterly disappointing for Wong.
This time, however, things moved fast. Following the call, Wong was immediately admitted to the hospital for a health check, and right into a heart transplant procedure. The medical staff told him this time that the surgery would have a 90 percent success rate. Ten hours later, Wong had a new heart.
It was the beginning of a brand new existence for Wong. “After the surgery, I was hospitalized for another 10 days. During this period many nice nurses fed me snacks, such as ice cream and chocolates, which were not to be found in my past dietary plan,” he smiles. “I gained weight—seven kilograms just in those 10 days!”
Previous to his transplant, Wong had to carry a two-kilogram, battery-operated controller all the time to ensure that his Heartmate II continually pumped blood throughout his body. It was with great relief that Wong’s new heart took well, and was found to have a regular heartbeat, so Wong no longer needs the Heartmate II device or the heavy controller. He admits, “I still forget occasionally that the controller is not by my side anymore.”
Having a new heart, Wong has had to make some adjustments in his daily lifestyle. A total of 10 to 14 different types of immunosuppressant drugs are to be administered daily for a period of six months to prevent his body from rejecting the new heart. He will have to take some of these drugs his entire life.
Since his transplant, Wong has also been obediently following his cardiologist’s instructions to attend physiotherapy sessions and wear a face mask in public and avoid large crowds in case he catches any infections.
There are some restrictions following his transplant but a new heart has brought great hope to Wong. He is eagerly looking forward to basketball, picking up cycling and even going for a vacation with a few of his friends from church. His boss at work—Wong works for the company that produces the Heartmate, the device that kept him alive—has a pending date with him to go jogging after work.
“There is hope for patients like me to receive a new heart. If you are facing the same situation as I was in, please do not give up yet!” Wong says encouragingly. “I realized since my transplant that I have become happier and do not feel as uncomfortable physically as before.”
Wong is filled with gratitude towards God and all family and friends who have stood by him and helped him all these years. “I’m grateful to my parents, my friend from the medical support group, and my cell group E448 for supporting and taking care of me during this period. And thanks also to many others out there who have been praying for me.”
Though time is still needed for his complete recovery, Wong is optimistic that he will soon be able to lead a normal or rather, an extraordinary life for the God who gave him a new heart.