In the middle of Boston, sits Tufts Medical Center. And for the past nine months a Vermonter has called this hospital home.
"It was sit, hurry up and wait," Daniel Billado said.
Daniel, 21, from Swanton, needed a new heart. It was during a dental surgery five years ago doctors realized something was wrong with Daniel's heart. He has a rare condition that restricts the flow of blood. Doctors relayed the bad news to his family.
"I was just stunned," mom Lynn Billado said. "I fell to the floor and said, 'You telling me my kid's going to die?' And they said, 'Yes.' And I said, 'There's nothing you can do?' And they said, 'A transplant.'"
Reporter Gina Bullard: Was a heart transplant his only option?
Dr. Marvin Konstam: You know, it pretty much was.
Dr. Konstam is Daniel's cardiologist at Tuft's Medical Center. Daniel was moved to the hospital when his condition got worse-- he needed constant care and a new heart. That journey was not easy.
"It just seemed like I was only hitting rock bottom more and more every day, every week, every month. Just when you think things couldn't get any worse, they did," Daniel said.
In December, Daniel went into cardiac arrest twice, making him and his family more anxious than ever for a donor.
"This past nine months... was hell," Lynn said. "It was hell because you just don't know."
Monday, Daniel received the call he'd been waiting for-- a matching heart.
"I was just stunned," his mother said. "I still think I am because I haven't had much emotion."
Doctors say surgery went fantastically, but Billado isn't out of the woods just yet.
"The body has a natural tendency to reject foreign objects like a heart transplant and so we have to issue him powerful drugs that influence his immune system and keep his immune system from rejecting his heart," Konstam explained.
"We have nine months to make up, so we're going to do a lot of stuff that we haven't been able to do," said Holly Tatro, Daniel's fiancée.
For Daniel, getting home to his own bed and spending time with his fiancée are on the top of his list. Not to mention meeting the family of the organ donor who saved his life.
"There's just so many things to say to the family," Daniel said. "Thank you just isn't enough."
Daniel and his family say the rest of their lives will be dedicated to bringing awareness to organ donation. So that no one else has to wait 9 months like they did to get an organ.
Daniel only found out about his life-threatening heart condition five years ago. Looking back now the family says he was often tired after school, taking naps. He also experienced shortness of breath when he played sports that was so bad, he stopped playing basketball. Doctors say he was lucky because he was at risk his entire life of getting a fatal blood clot. But Daniel and his family are looking forward now, hoping the new heart can provide a new and long life. And doctors say if the surgery works, he will be able to be as active as he wants with no side effects.
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