Joelle Earle is 29 years old and on his third heart, but he hasn’t let life’s unexpected turns slow him down.
Even though Joelle was born with an incomplete rib cage and a hole in his heart, no one suspected that the asthma-like symptoms he battled throughout childhood were a result of the birth defect.
A few months after he was born, doctors told his family that the ribcage closed and the cavity in his heart had healed.
That was that and besides, everything was fine as long as he used his inhaler.
Joelle saw a cardiologist and learned that his “episodes” were actually heart attacks, and he’d had 8 by this point.
As a teenager, Joelle, an avid athlete and sprinter, started getting light-headed and passing out when training. At 14, he had one of these episodes when no one was nearby to help, resulting in third-degree burns from sun exposure. A week later, he saw a cardiologist and learned that his “episodes” were actually heart attacks, and he’d had 8 by this point.
After months of tests and multiple open-heart surgeries, Joelle was diagnosed with heart failure and put on a transplant list.
Joelle was 16 when he got his first heart transplant.
One day, while Joelle laid in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, his mom, Nancy Stamp, got the news that her son wasn’t going to make it through the weekend. She decided to let his doctors hook him up to a ventricular assist device as a last-ditch effort to keep him alive as they waited for a donor.
The device keeping Joelle alive was the size of a washing machine. “It was a dramatic change in the quality of his life, and I’m thankful to God that within 3 weeks, they found a heart,” Nancy says.
Joelle was 16 when he got his first heart transplant. His medical team told him that his new heart would last 10-13 years.
After recovering from surgery, he went back to living a normal life as a teenager. He attended music festivals and traveled the world—Hawaii, Japan, and everywhere in between. He spent a lot of his time running, hiking, skateboarding, and playing sports like he used to.
When he turned 19, he moved to Los Angeles to work for his father’s catering business and restaurant, Earle’s on Crenshaw.His donor heart had lasted almost 14 years and it was time for a new one. Click To Tweet
In 2016, Joelle started once again having issues with shortness of breath. His donor heart had lasted almost 14 years and it was time for a new one.
After 5 months on the waiting list, he got the call that a donor heart was available. He had his second heart transplant on March 29, 2017 at Cedars-Sinai.
The surgery went quickly and smoothly. Nancy was shocked to get a call saying her son was asking for her just 5 hours after surgery began. Joelle and Nancy credit the advancement of medicine and Joelle’s care team, including surgeon Dr. Joshua Chung of the Smidt Heart Institute, for his rapid recovery.
“You can tell they actually care. It’s a more human experience.”
“Joelle’s been taken care of really well. The team was very responsive at all hours of the night. They care—it isn’t just a job. This is a passion, commitment, and sacrifice,” Nancy says. “The actions of every member of this hospital make me want to be a better person and figure out how can I say thank you for saving my son’s life.”
“This isn’t our first experience with Cedars-Sinai,” Nancy says. “We’ve always come back and we always will.”
“They are very compassionate and you can tell everyone here loves what they do,” Joelle adds. “You can tell they actually care. It’s a more human experience.”
What does Joelle plan to do now that he’s got a brand-new heart (again)? He’s going back to school to complete his degree in psychology and plans to become a child psychologist.
Joelle is a grateful patient and supporter of the Campaign for Cedars-Sinai. Learn more about the Campaign.
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