Teen Gets Artificial Heart, Breaks Mine (VIDEO)

Jacqueline Burt Cote

jordan mereckaRight about now, most parents of 18-year-old kids are breathing a huge sigh of relief that graduation has come and gone. The parents of Jordan Merecka, on the other hand, are breathing a huge sigh of relief that their son is still with them, thanks to recently receiving an artificial heart transplant. Born with a defective heart on the wrong side of his chest, Merecka has spent most of his life on a transplant list. Now, thanks to his artificial heart, he'll get to wait for a donor heart at home instead of in the hospital.

The Houston teen had taken a turn for the worse when his doctors decided to try the artificial device, which runs on a 40-pound generator worn in a backpack. So far, the procedure has been a huge success: Once unable to breathe on his own, Merecka can now walk 100 yards at a time. He even managed to graduate high school (though his sister had to walk across the stage for his diploma).

It makes my own heart ache to consider the agony this family has endured. Forget throwing a graduation cap into the air; this kid is lucky to be able to walk a few hundred feet. Every accomplishment, no matter how small, must serve as a reminder to his parents of the miracle of his mere existence.

After 17 years, do they still look at their son with the same sense of awe and astonishment we had when we gazed at our newborns? I wish I could remember to always regard my kids with wonder and respect, no matter how old they get or how sturdy and self-reliant they seem. (Or how gigantic a mess they make or how loud a screaming match they have.)

As a writer, I come across a lot of stories about kids suffering from terrible illnesses and triumphing against all odds. So I get these little nudges from the universe to be grateful for what I have on a pretty regular basis. Still, I lose my temper, snap at my kids, have moments where I want to lock myself in the closet and never come out. It scares me, because secretly I have this paranoia that if I take my kids for granted even for a split second, something horrible will happen to take them away from me.

I know it's an irrational fear, but it's wrapped up in working mom guilt and tied with a single mom ribbon, and it's just a big old box of scary is what I'm getting at. Am I crazy? Tell me, please ...

Are you ever afraid that if you forget how lucky you are, something bad will happen to remind you?


Image via ABC

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