Brotherly Bond Strengthened by Heart Transplants
Feb 12, 2020 Agata Smieciuszewski
For brothers Jaime, Jorge, and Alex Bedolla, their first battle with heart problems started when their mom was diagnosed with a heart valve condition that led to her getting a heart transplant in 1995. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of a difficult road for the family.
"The Bedolla brothers share a tremendous bond in their great desire to achieve a second chance at life. They've endured significant health challenges and they've all had to undergo heart transplantation, but they truly represent the success and spirit of this lifesaving surgery."
On Memorial Day 2009, Jaime went to the ER after dealing with a bad cough.
"I had fluid in my lungs, but I didn't know at the time," Jaime says. "My main focus was to avoid missing work, so I went to the ER to try to get some medication."
His doctor told him his blood work and electrocardiogram showed he had a mild heart attack, and with further testing, they found a leaking valve. After several years of treatment and a worsening condition, he had a total artificial heart installed. On his 36th birthday in 2013, he received a heart transplant at Cedars-Sinai.
"It was a terrible feeling prior to the transplant," Jaime remembers. "But after you just think, 'This is what living feels like.' It's day and night.'"
Within 6 months, Jaime was well on his way back to a normal life and his job as a construction developer.
"There is a light at the end of the tunnel," Jaime says. "You have to have a lot of faith and try to stay ready and as positive as possible throughout the process."
Next up: Alex
Alex, the youngest Bedolla brother, was the next in the family to go through the difficult process of heart transplantation.
In 2011, Alex was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and had a defibrillator installed. Several years later, he had a stroke that affected his mobility, and his health was rapidly deteriorating.
"I was getting weaker and weaker," Alex remembers. "I couldn't walk a few steps without stopping to take a breath."
In October 2016, he had his heart transplant at Cedars-Sinai, and now he's happy to be working again as a commercial truck driver.
"It was tough, and there were times that I felt like giving up," says Alex. "I was fortunate to have my mom and brother go through it before me, and I was able to see that they came out the other side all right—so that kept me positive."
Jorge was the last of the 3 brothers to go through the heart transplant journey.
"In April 2011, I was playing in a softball game and I started to feel drowsy and my vision was getting foggy," Jorge remembers. "My wife took me to the ER after the game because my heart was racing."
Jorge was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and had a defibrillator pacemaker installed. By February 2019, his condition had worsened and he was placed on a heart transplant list. He finally got a new heart on April 22, 2019.
Less than a year later, Jorge is still in the recovery process. "I'm excited to get back to feeling normal, getting back to work as a concrete plant manager, and attending family activities," Jorge says.
"Me and my brothers are really competitive," Jaime says. "You really have to let your body heal, but we're so used to being active that it was hard not to get bored and try to rush our recovery. That was the hardest part."
All 3 brothers say that having family to lean on made all the difference in their recoveries.
"We all joke around that I went through the most drama and pain and struggles as the first," Jaime says. "That's kind of my legacy—that I lined up the pins for my brothers so they can just come in and knock it down."
The strength of the brothers also inspired the staff members they saw over the years at Cedars-Sinai.
"The Bedolla brothers share a tremendous bond in their great desire to achieve a second chance at life," says Cedars-Sinai heart expert Dr. Jon Kobashigawa, who was part of the care team for all 3 brothers. "They've endured significant health challenges and they've all had to undergo heart transplantation, but they truly represent the success and spirit of this lifesaving surgery."