This Aspiring Cardiac Nurse Celebrates Her 1 year anniversary since her heart transplant

This Aspiring Cardiac Nurse Celebrates Her 1 year anniversary since her heart transplant

A former Norfolk State University undergrad reflects on the time she almost died.

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Jataria Johnson, who many know as NuNue or Newskii, was just 16 years old when she was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure, a condition in which the heart doesn't pump blood as well as it should. This condition can run in the family, as it did in Johnson's case.

"It's like a heart problem. Just like people with asthma have trouble breathing, I have heart problems," Johnson said.

Despite her cardiologist recommending that she get a heart transplant, Johnson refused to do so at such a young age because she didn't think her heart was that bad.

"I wanted to do what most teens do which is work and party. I just looked forward to enjoying my high school career," Johnson said.

In August 2016 Johnson started school at Norfolk State University, a nearly 3 hour drive away from her hometown of Farmville, Virginia. However, it wasn't long before her health became worse.

"I was suffering. I had like six hospital visits," Johnson said.

Johnson said she did not want to worry her mother, so she did not confide in her mother until it was time for her to go to the hospital. However, Johnson said at her last visit to Sentara Norfolk General, the doctors told her that there were spots on her lungs and they believed it was a blood clot. It was then, that Johnson returned home for the spring semester.

March 2017 Johnson said she began experiencing really bad cramps in her stomach one day and she told her mom. At the time, Johnson's mother thought it was an appendicitis and recommended that Johnson go to the hospital.

"At that point, I was tired of going to the hospital. I didn't want any more bad news, " Johnson said.

Johnson was at Centra Southside Community Hospital for several hours before being transported to Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical Center where she was told that she was dying. Johnson said the doctor told her that her heart was pulling blood from all of her other organs to pump properly. Initially, Johnson was sent home with an IV drip but when she returned, she was told once more that her heart was failing.

May 2017 Johnson was given bridge-to-transplant therapy. As a part of her therapy, Johnson used a left ventricular assist device, which is a battery-operated, mechanical heart pump. Johnson said she used the LVAD for three weeks before getting a call on May 30, 2017 that someone, who Johnson didn't know due to confidentiality, had donated a new heart for Johnson.

"I cried from 1 p.m. until 7 a.m., when I got to the hospital," Johnson said.

Though most people usually have two hours to make it to the hospital when they get a call for a heart transplant before the next person on the list is called, Johnson said her experience was different because she has the rare blood Type AB-positive.

May 31, 2017 at 3 a.m. Johnson underwent surgery.

"During the process of a transplant, all of your organs are shut down and you're basically dead," Johnson said.

Following surgery, Johnson said patches and a rotating machine was used to awaken her organs again. After regaining her strength, Johnson recovered from her transplant within three weeks. Her doctors were shocked as that was the fastest recovery for a transplant they had ever seen and most people are in the hospital for a month or two. Johnson said she also became very thirsty and began urinating a lot. Soon after, Johnson found out she had diabetes.

Johnson said today she is doing better and takes insulin for her diabetes. December 2019 Johnson will be graduating from Centra College of Nursing a registered nurse. Throughout her journey, she said faith took her a long way, she developed a lifestyle she called "Bounce Back Nu," and she said her career goal changed.

"I used to want to be a pediatric nurse. Now I want to be a cardiac nurse. It inspired me how much technology and medicine changed my whole life around," Johnson said.

Johnson has no regrets about not getting her transplant when she was 16.

To anyone that has been diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure, Johnson said, "I feel like you shouldn't worry as much because it's different levels to it. My case was different from my mom's. In my case, the medicine wasn't working and my heart percentage was declining. Just live your best life and take your medicine as you should."

Cover Image Credit:

Jataria Johnson

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Losing A Grandparent Changed My Life

Live for them, and give them a legacy to be proud of.
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Death isn’t what the average 20-something thinks about every day. You don’t think it will happen to you, or the people around you. You know that it exists because you see heart-wrenching reports on the news daily of another life lost to ignorance or hate.

Yes, losing a grandparent definitely changes your life. For some of us, it's a drastic change. To others: they knew it was coming. Still, some weren't even close to their grandparents because they lived too far away from each other to build a relationship in person.

I can't even fathom that considering both of my grandparents lived a city away from me or across town. They are your second set of parents and the love you've had for your entire life. They are the lessons learned and the ones holding your hand through it all.

When my grandfather died (affectionately known to me as Papa), my life changed. I watched him take his last breath in the hospital alone. I called my mother to tell her that her father died. In that moment: my emotionally sheltered life was torn apart. In that moment: I had to grow up. The person I had leaned on my entire life was gone.

I literally reconsidered everything I had done in my life in a matter of hours. I thought about college, finally graduating and walking across that stage: cords swinging and my tassel hanging there. That was his biggest dream for me, we were only a year away from it when he left this earth.

When a grandparent passes they take a part of you: big or small. When you were younger you planned out life with them. You shared your dreams with them, your insecurities, your childish ways and most of all you shared your love.

They, in turn, taught you lessons about life, helped you realize those dreams, and never let you go without being told you were loved every single time they saw you. They are the suppliers of happiness, security, and laughs. Friends come and go, but your family stays with you forever.

The bottom line is: most everyone knows what it's like to lose a grandparent. We all cope differently, and leaning on others is the best way to keep yourself up. Facing the reality of death is the only way we can accept it and move on. Moving on doesn't mean forgetting, it means understanding. We were lucky enough to have these amazing people to guide us through our younger years, teaching us these vital lessons.

I can't tell you how many times a day I wish I had my papa back. Learning to cope without them is the hardest part, even years later. Grandparents prepare you for life's greatest gains. Little did they know they would be their grandchildren's biggest loss. Live for them, and give them a legacy to be proud of.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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What It Is Really Like Having Sisters Close To Your Age

While having siblings close to your age is pretty amazing, there can be a lot of issues that can come with it.

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I come from a family of 5 people and 1 dog. I have 2 sisters, Grace and Caroline. We are all pretty close in age, Caroline being the youngest and 3 years younger than me.

My sisters and I share a bond like no one else, no one can replicate it. When you have siblings close to your age you have built-in best friends, and since they are around your age you have the same interest, or at least, enough so that you can do things that other siblings cannot. Examples of this would be seeing R-Rated movies and going to the mall without too much complaining, along with being able to shop in the same stores or even share clothes. Grace and I sometimes even split the cost of a shirt we both like.

We even overlap friend groups! Which is not much of a problem for us, Grace and I are both in music programs which overlap enough for us to have the same friends, which is great for when one of us has a sleepover, the other can join in on the fun. Caroline, however, even though she is seen as the sporty one of the 3 of us, she still has a lot of friends who have similar interests as Grace or I, giving us a lot of the same friends. It's nice not to be considered the "cool older sister", I am just like the rest of them.

While we do fight a lot, we make up really quickly, because most issues we have are stupid sibling fights: who gets the T.V., what to have for dinner, what movie to see. But it is always fun because there are 3 of us, which means majority rules, something we tend to go by most of the time depending on the situation.

Having 3 teenagers in the house can be a handful for our parents though, when you have three teenage girls going through puberty at relatively the same time, it can be grueling, especially when you are all on your period at the same time.. (yes, that has happened before) (and yes, it sucks). While I am on the topic, let's say a prayer and a thank you to my dad for dealing with 5 girls (including the dog, obviously) because he does a pretty damn good job at dealing with all of us.

When we were younger, we always had a play date even when one was canceled. We all made up songs and dances and would perform them for our parents. We even had a band called The Halsey Sisters (AKA the female version of The Jonas Brothers) where we had a hit song called "We Got The Heart and Soul". It was a hell of a time. Let's just say the music video for that song is, interesting to say the least.

At the end of the day, I wouldn't switch my sisters for anything in the world, they are my rocks, and I wouldn't want it any other way, Grace, Caroline, keep doing what you're doing, because you're pretty damn awesome.

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