Local San Diego surfer Jacob Kilby has to put his education and job on hold while he is on the wait list for a second heart transplant. The shortage of organ donors makes the process longer as his heart gets weaker.
Kilby was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a heart defect where the left side of the heart does not fully develop for blood to flow through the heart. It took four failed open heart surgeries until he was only given 24 hours to live at the age of 2. Fortunately, a compatible heart was able to be transplanted to him right on time. His health started improving and he was able to live normally for 16 more years with his new heart.
“The doctor said he (Kilby) would not have made it through the night if he hadn’t got that heart,” Charity Roberts said, Kilby’s aunt who was always like a second mother to him.
Unfortunately, it does not end there. A heart that is transplanted starts to weaken in about 10 to 15 years. Now, Kilby has to go through the process again, and cannot do anything but wait for a new compatible heart. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 20 people in the U.S. die everyday waiting for an organ. People have the power to change that because one donor can save up to eight lives.
Thanks to the Make A Wish Foundation, Kilby was granted the experience of a lifetime, when he was flown to Oahu’s North Shore to surf and meet with Jamie O’Brien and Bruce Irons.
Kilby loves being around the water. He joined the swim team for four years at Steele Canyon High School and has had a passion for surfing since he was 12.
Kilby was fully registered as a freshman at California University State Channel Islands majoring in Business and Marketing this fall semester. He got accepted, had his classes, and his dorm all ready to go, however, Kilby’s doctors recommended him not attend the university and quit his job, to avoid overworking his body until he has a new transplant.
“There is always a possibility that you can pass away having the transplant so I had to write a will to my family and had to read it to them, just about how I feel about everything and if I pass away,” Kilby said. “I’m having a hard time living with that. You never know what could go wrong at anytime.”
Kilby now lives at home with his two younger brothers, Zack and Dylan, and his mother, Mellissa Johnson. Roberts started a fundraiser on the Give Forward website to help support Kilby and his family as they endure this financially and emotionally challenging time. The website describes Kilby’s story, updates about his appointments, and information on how to help.
“We are trying to push this (organ donation awareness) so that other families don’t have to go through this,” said Roberts.