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How a teenager's stomach ache turned into a heart transplant at Rady Children's

A Culver City teen who has dreams of being an NBA star complained of a stomach ache, two weeks later he got a heart transplant.

SAN DIEGO — A teenage boy with big NBA dreams is recovering from a life-threatening scare.

14-year-old Mario Luna III says a stomachache turned into needing a heart transplant.

The teen says he’s loves playing basketball with friends and anyone who enjoys getting to play some ball. “Just the fun and aggression because it gets good when it's starting to have fun,” said Luna.

But on Jan.12, those basketball dreams were nearly shattered.

“My heart was just starting to beat fast. And I had like a short amount of breath. And then I asked her [mom] if I can go to the doctor because my stomach was also hurting,” said Luna.

His heart rate reached 240 at one point, doctors described it as running a non-stop marathon. “If I hadn't gone to the doctor, I could have collapsed on the court or I could have been dead. And I'm just glad that I got there on time,” said Luna.

The Culver City 8th grader, was sent to the emergency room and then to Children's Hospital of Orange County where he needed blood transfusions and he was put on an ECMO machine that oxygenates the blood to give the heart some rest. He was also put in a medically induced coma. Then a nurse gave him life changing news.

“Mario, I don't mean to scare you, but you're going to have to need a heart transplant because your heart is really bad,’” said Luna.

His dad, Mario II, tried to wrap his mind around this news.

“My whole world just came crumbling down because I was like, how do we go from stomach ache to heart transplant?,” said Mario.

Doctors told Luna and his family that he suffered from cardiomyopathy which unbeknownst to the Luna's, was passed down in the family.

“I was just like, straight up scared,” said Luna.

Rady Children’s Hospital says they have performed only 54 heart transplants eight years.

Weather conditions grounded the medical helicopter so Luna was transported to Rady's in an ambulance.

“Am I going to be here for years, months? Days?,” asked Luna.

Just two days after being put on the heart transplant list, he had a donor.

“I didn't even hesitate. I just like went straight up for like, let's do it. And we're not wasting time. We're doing it today, or tonight. And I'm just happy that I got my heart transplant,” said Luna.

That same night, on Jan. 27, Luna was given a new heart, the operation only took four hours.

During his recovery he's met medical warriors, doctors and nurses and hospital staff and San Diego Padres superstars, Fernando Tatis Jr. Yu Darvish.   “I'm just happy that I met them, even though I'm not into baseball, but I am a fan of them now,”  said Luna.

But there’s a bigger superhero in Luna’s life.

“I just want to thank the donor for saving my life,” said Luna.

Luna knows he has a long recovery but with his new heart, the 5'8" basketball player has a new pulse on life on and off the court.

“Once I get healed up from all of this, I will be back on the court waiting for everyone to show up. And to have a really big fun game,” said Luna.

Luna says he owes his incredible recovery to the generous organ and blood donors.

“I'm thankful for everything that every all the doctors and the nurses have done all the medication. And that's why it's so important to have people donate their blood, their organs because you never know whose life, you're going to save,” said Luna.

During his treatment and recovery, Luna's family is staying at the Ronald McDonald House which is also a non-profit that houses families across from Rady’s during their children’s treatments.

WATCH RELATED: San Diego Padres appear across the county ahead of FanFest (Feb. 2023).


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