Twins Plan for the Future
Twins Khamal and Khalil live in a modest apartment in California with their mother, Eugenia, who splits her time working three jobs and taking care of her two boys – a full-time job in its own right. One meeting with the boys and you would never know who has the heart problems. Neither likes to sit still for more than a few minutes and both speak remarkably well for their age. It’s not until Khamal lifts up his shirt to show a chest and stomach with scars from his numerous surgeries that you would know he’s been in and out of hospitals most of his life.
Khamal is one of a handful of heart disease survivors who is featured in the American Heart Association’s television advertising campaign to raise awareness of the association’s work.
Eugenia sees the family’s involvement in the ad campaign as a natural extension of their relationship with the American Heart Association.
“We started working with the American Heart Association to help Khamal talk about his disease, and to help people understand it as well,” she says.
Soon after his birth, Khamal was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect – Tetralogy of Fallot. Later, a diagnosis of peripheral pulmonary stenosis was added. During one hospital visit, complications arose while performing a surgery to widen Khamal’s pulmonary artery. To complete the surgery, the doctors had to stop his heart from beating for 13 minutes. Khamal was clinically dead for that entire time and still pulled through.
When asked about this amazing fact, Khamal jumps to his feet and proudly reveals his most recent science project. It details how his heart is different from everyone else’s and what the doctors have had to do to it to keep him alive. Not surprisingly, Khamal got an ‘A’ on his presentation.
He looks great for a child who has endured three open-heart surgeries, the placement of three stents and 10 cardiac catheterizations since he was 11 months old. While his days in the hospital have not come to an end, the family is hopeful that future technological advances will correct his heart defects and give him a life of running, jumping, playing and breathing like the one his brother enjoys.
In fact, Eugenia believes that research funded by the American Heart Association has provided Khamal with the quality of life he enjoys today.
“Khamal and the whole family’s fate probably would have been very different if not for technology,” she says. “The catheterizations, imaging, MRIs, all help the doctors to better plan his surgeries.”
While the family continues to face the challenges of Khamal’s congenital heart defect, they continue to live, love, laugh and play like a typical happy family.