UNC Health Care
Members of UNC Women's Volleyball Team visit Jakeina Sutton in her room at UNC Hospitals. Photo by Tom Hughes.

A second chance for Jakeina

How could this young lady need a heart transplant? This was my first thought when I walked into the Emergency Room to see Jakeina for the first time. Had it not been for the IV pump she carried I would have thought I was in the wrong room.

Jakeina and her family had been called to Chapel Hill from their home in Rose Hill for a potential heart and kidney transplant. Unfortunately, the transplant did not proceed and Jakeina had to return home. Jakeina had been born with an inherited heart disorder that causes it to fail. At four months of age, Jakeina underwent her first heart transplant by Dr. Michael Mill, the Director of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at UNC. She recovered quickly and, for sixteen years, lived a normal life. She joined a dance club, played volleyball, tennis, and soccer, and enjoyed her childhood in a near normal way.

She underwent successful retransplantation of her heart and twelve hours later had a new kidney transplanted.

However, over the last three months, Jakeina had found herself more short of breath. Her cardiologist at UNC, Dr. Elman Frantz,, discovered that her transplanted heart had begun to fail due to chronic rejection. Additionally, the medication she had been taking for so long had caused her kidneys to begin to fail. Jakeina needed another heart transplant and this time a kidney transplant. On June 15, Jakeina was called back to Chapel Hill. She underwent successful retransplantation of her heart and twelve hours later had a new kidney transplanted.

As was expected, she recovered quickly and before long was roaming the halls with her younger brother and mother. Before returning home, she was visited by the UNC volleyball team and their head coach. They were each one inspired by Jakeina’s attitude and enthusiasm about returning home and playing volleyball again. In fact, she has a special invitation to participate in the UNC volleyball camp this summer. God has blessed Jakeina with not one, but two, heart transplants.

She is an example of courage and determination to her friends, her family, and to UNC.

Andy C. Kiser, MD, is Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery.