On December 29, 2020, Bernard China, 58, from Newark and father of five, lost hope.
His heart failure had progressed to the point where he had to be hospitalized while awaiting a transplant, and he had been hospitalized at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBI), a RWJBarnabas health facility for 112 days.
He told his wife, that due to the security restrictions related to COVID-19, he had only been able to see a handful of times since arriving on September 8, that he felt hopeless and that he wanted to withdraw from the hospital.
His wife encouraged him to stay strong, however.
“She was sure it would work,” Bernard remembers. “She told me we had to keep praying.”
Early the next morning, their prayers were answered. At 1:30 a.m., a nurse entered Bernard’s room and told him he had a call from his cardiologist, Dr Saurabh Kapoor. Dazed and half awake, Bernard said he didn’t understand why Dr Kapoor was calling.
“He said to me: ‘Mr. China, this is Dr Kapoor. We have your heart, ”said Bernard.
Bernard immediately called his wife, family and friends to share the good news. At 1:45 a.m., hospital staff were drawing his blood and starting to prepare it for the operation.
“I had no way of getting back to sleep,” Bernard said. “I was overwhelmed to know that I would have another chance at life. “
August 2021 will mark the fifth anniversary of Bernard’s first heart failure diagnosis. He had never had heart problems or complications before, but he was having trouble breathing one morning, so he went to the hospital.
He was diagnosed with fluid around the heart (a sign of heart failure) and was admitted for a week and a half. Soon after, Bernard was put on several medications to manage his heart failure.
By the fall of 2018, his heart failure had progressed and Bernard began the tests necessary to be on the list for heart transplants.
During tests, doctors discovered that Bernard had stage 3 prostate cancer. Before he could be on the list for heart transplants, he would have to undergo radiation therapy, which he would receive at the NBI to ensure better coordination of care. for his complex illness.
Her treatments were successful and in January 2020 her prostate cancer was cured. Bernard was back on the road to the heart transplant list. The tests have started again.
On February 19, 2019, Bernard was lying in his bed and called his son. He noticed that his voice was scrambled.
When he stood up, his arm was shaking. He stood up to look at himself in the mirror, and his mouth was crooked.
He had a stroke. He quickly told his 17-year-old son to call their mother, and he told his 12-year-old son to call an ambulance.
He spent a week in the hospital recovering from his stroke, which required him to start the heart transplant again.
Finally, in September 2020, Bernard obtained confirmation that he was on the list of heart transplants. On September 8, he went to the NBI to undergo cardiac catheterization with Dr Kapoor.
Bernard remembers this visit very well.
“He said to me, ‘Your numbers are high, and I have to admit you and find you a heart,'” said Bernard.
It was a shock to Bernard, of course, but at first he just thought he was going to be there for a week or two. He and his family weren’t prepared for him to be there for three months.
His wife worked from home and all of their children were also at home with a virtual school.
“It was a lot for my wife. A lot on me. I worried all the time, ”said Bernard. “With the COVID-19 restrictions, my children could not come to visit him, and my wife could only come on certain days and at certain times.”
Sometimes Bernard’s wife would stop outside with her children and they would wave to her through the window, eight floors above.
At night, they could only see her phone light up at the window.
Bernard spent the holidays in the hospital and had to watch his children open gifts via FaceTime.
On December 30, when Bernard received his transplant, his wife was able to be with him before they started the operation. She waited and prayed in the hospital for the duration of the five-hour operation.
Bernard remembers that when he woke up, the hospital staff were waiting for him at the door of his room, encouraging him. He would eventually be demobilized to return home and see his children on January 15, 2021.
Bernard remembers the moment and was moved. His seven-year-old son hugged him in tears and his five-year-old daughter did not want to leave him. Bernard was happy to be home.
Today, almost five months after the transplant, Bernard is doing very well and feeling better every day.
As a singer in his church’s gospel choir, he found it difficult to breathe normally and sing due to his heart failure, and he was forced to stop singing.
But now his voice returns and he sings again. He looks forward to spending more time with his family and thanks the NBI healthcare team for having had a second chance at life.
“Newark Beth saved my life,” Bernard said. “More than once. I am eternally grateful for this.