GALION — The family of a Galion teenager awaiting a heart transplant has just one request during this holiday season: prayers for their son and brother.
Jeremy Kostelnik, age 17, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy while still an infant, his mother Tiffany Kostelnik said. He underwent a heart transplant two months later.
“When he was three months old, he caught a flu,” Tiffany said. “Instead of the white blood cells attacking the flu (virus), they attacked his heart. That’s when he developed dilated cardiomyopathy. He was in the hospital for that for about two months before they listed him for a heart transplant. When he was five months old, on Mother’s Day, we finally got the call that there was a heart available for him.
“For 16 or 17 years, nothing major has happened. In 2007, he went through rejection, which was the only bad part, but he recovered from that,” she noted.
However, on Dec. 3, 2020, Jeremy was admitted to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus following what should have been a routine check-up with his cardiologist.
“He has to do an echocardiogram and EKG every three months,” Tiffany said. “So this time, they said his echo didn’t look so great. They didn’t know what was going on. They thought it might be rejection, so they did a heart (catheterization) and biopsy. They got the results back and it wasn’t rejection; instead it was his coronary artery. I guess with transplant patients, the longer (the transplanted heart) is in your body, coronary artery disease is a major issue and the top cause for another transplant.”
Jeremy’s medical team told his family that they’re not able to repair the damage caused by coronary artery disease and another heart transplant is necessary, Tiffany said.
“So he’s been in the hospital since Dec. 3 and on Dec. 15 they re-listed him (for a heart transplant),” Tiffany said. “Now we’re just kind of in limbo, waiting. He’s at the top of the list — 1A. So we’re just waiting.”
Doctors said the timetable for a donor heart to become available could range “from a couple of weeks to a couple of months,” Tiffany said. “It really varies.”
The stress and strain of waiting continues to wear on Jeremy as well as Tiffany, her husband David, and sons Justin, age 24, and Jacob, age 18.
“It’s emotionally draining,” she said. “It’s like hurry up and wait. We’re just sitting around doing nothing. We can’t help him. We can’t do anything for him. He can’t have any visitors. We’re the only ones who can go see him. He can’t have his grandparents or any other family just go and see him at the hospital. He can’t even have his brothers go see him.”
Despite what seems like an impossible situation to deal with at times, Tiffany said Jeremy seems to be maintaining a positive attitude with some help from family and friends.
“He’s one of those kids who tends to hold things in, so you don’t really know how he’s feeling,” she said. “We get worried about things like anxiety and depression, so we work on keeping him in a positive state of mind.”
Tiffany said Jeremy, a student at Galion High School, “was born in the wrong decade. He’s really an 80s kid.”
“He likes all the retro things, all the games,” she said. “He likes performing. He likes Broadway and all the musicals. He’s in marching band at the school. He’s been in the marching band since eighth grade. He plays the trumpet.”
Their family and Jeremy’s classmates and Galion High School staff members have been “very supportive” throughout this trying time for her family, Tiffany said.
“Our family is very supportive; they’ve sent him little gift packages,” she said. “Even the school has done that, too. I know (Galion City Schools Superintendent) Mrs. (Jennifer) Allerding has sent him balloons and the band sent him cards. The school has been very helpful. People at school have given us a lot of gas cards to help us with traveling back and forth.”
Tiffany said the only thing they’ve ever asked for — and continue to request — is prayer for Jeremy.
“I want Jeremy to know that there’s people in his court that are rooting for him, so that he doesn’t delve into the anxiety or depression state,” Tiffany said. “We just want to keep him in a good mindset.”
Cards and letters can be sent to Jeremy Kostelnik in care of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Room 17, Floor 4A, 700 Children’s Drive, Columbus 43205.
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