Foster Care Teen Needs Heart Transplant

LAS VEGAS -- An 18-year-old graduate of Basic High School in Henderson is facing the fight of his life.

Elijah Kelly, who grew up as a foster child, needs a heart transplant. His life has been filled with one obstacle after another.

Kelly has dilated cardiomyapathy, which means the left side of his heart does not pump like it should.

Nevada is 40th in the nation when it comes to registered donors. Currently, more than 500 Nevadans are waiting for a transplant.

Kelly isn't giving up hope. Just like every other battle he's face in life, he's fighting to win.

A battery-operated machine is keeping Kelly alive while he waits for a new heart.

"The wait could be a day, a week, a month, you never know," he said.

Kelly's heart is twice the size of normal one and he needs more than 20 pills a day to support it.

"It's not the end of the world," Kelly said. "Some people may think it is, but it's really a new beginning, in my eyes."

Kelly is far from the average teen. He's spent several years in Nevada's foster system, but said he is also the proud son of Brianne and Kevin Combs and the big brother of Desiree, Jeremiah and Mattea.

But Nevada isn't able to perform the transplant he needs. At 4 a.m. Saturday, he leaves for Utah, because Nevada doesn't haven't the capability to perform a heart transplant. In Utah, he will be put on an active transplant list.

Nevada Donor Network CEO Joseph Ferreria said there is a tremendous need for people to register to save lives, such as Kelly's.

"There are currently 118,000 people in the United States who are awaiting a transplant," Ferreria said.

Ferreira said fear keeps people from registering.

"It's felt that the health care team in the hospital will not do their utmost to save someone's life if they are a registered donor," Ferreria said. "That couldn't be further from the truth."

A year ago, when Kelly collapsed during football practice from what was initially believed to be an asthma attack, doctors never expected him to awake from a coma. Nevertheless, he sees his future.

"I want to get a degree in criminal science and minor in criminal justice," Kelly said. "I can still do that."

Kelly is covered through Medicaid, but it doesn't cover all of his medical bills. His foster family is expected to try and cover the additional costs. Those wishing to assist Kelly with his medical bills, may call Clark County at 702-455-5484.


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