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TEEN AWAITING HEART DONATION APOLLO HIGH STUDENT FACES 2ND TRANSPLANT.

Byline: Angie Valencia-Martinez Staff Writer

SIMI VALLEY - A 17-year-old Apollo High School student who had a successful heart transplant when he was 4 is waiting again for another new heart.

Following 13 years of relatively normal life, Zachary Ferre suffered a heart attack last year and his doctors say he needs a new heart, soon.

``The reality of life can set in so early,'' Ferre said, sitting at the dining room table in front of a pile of homework. ``I'm worried about missing out.''

Juan Alejos, medical director of the pediatric heart transplant program at the Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA, said Ferre's heart is starving for blood.

Ferre, who could once jog around the high school track, is now winded easily and must restrict his physical activity. He's also on a strict, low-sodium diet, so french fries and other teen favorite foods are off limits.

According to Alejos, donor hearts last an average of eight to 10 years. The procedure can cost anywhere between $200,000 to $250,000.

The family has been on pins and needles since the heart attack, said Zachary's father, Don Ferre. The boy's transplant team confirmed what they had been dreading.

``The bad news is that there's nothing they can do for him to keep that heart,'' said Don Ferre, 56. ``The good news is he has type B positive blood and that puts him in a category where he should get a heart fairly quick.''

Ever since he can remember, UCLA Medical Center has been like a second home, Zachary Ferre said. He recalls his first organ transplant: being airlifted to the hospital during a snowstorm in the Antelope Valley, where he lived at the time. And he fondly remembers Dr. Drinkwater, who performed the surgery that saved his life. The rest is a blur to him.

Zachary's heart trouble started when he was just 9 weeks old. A viral infection attacked his heart, causing it to enlarge.

``It brings back those memories, the fear,'' Don Ferre said. ``You try to live day by day, but any time we get a call from them it rushes you back knowing that your son will have to go through this again.

``We'd like him to get it done and over with but at the same time you want to delay it and pray for the best.''

About 10 percent to 15 percent of heart transplant recipients in Zachary Ferre's age group die.

According to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing, an organ database for the country, there are 12 children ages 11 to 17 in the state on the waiting list for a heart.

The median wait time for a transplant is about three months.

Every day, 17 Americans die waiting for a transplant, said Bryan Stewart, OneLegacy communications director. OneLegacy is a transplant donor network serving Southern California as a bridge between hospitals and transplant centers.

Today, Zachary's health condition requires constant supervision. The transplant patient makes several visits to his cardiologist and transplant team at UCLA. He also maintains a pillbox filled with medication necessary for his well-being.

And while the teen has led a fairly average life - school, part-time work and a girlfriend - there are some things he has never been able to do.

``I can't play football,'' he said. ``I always wanted to be in the pads, under the lights, in high school.''

Angie Valencia-Martinez, (805) 583-7604

angie.valencia(at)dailynews.com

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(color) Following 13 years of relatively normal life, Zachary Ferre, 17, of Simi Valley suffered a heart attack last year and his doctors say he needs a new heart.

Joe Binoya/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 6, 2005
Words:613
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