A Change of Heart

Loretta Coureas

Collin received his heart transplant at age 2 at CHKD.
Collin received his heart transplant at age 2 at CHKD.

Twenty-year-old Collin Kobelja arrived at CHKD for his final pediatric cardiology checkup in early June. It was 18 years after he was featured in Kidstuff as CHKD’s first heart transplant patient.

His mom, Suzanne, said she knew her son was ready to transition to an adult cardiology team, but leaving the care of CHKD was hard nonetheless. Although the Kobeljas moved to Bethesda, Maryland, many years ago, they continued Collin’s follow-up care with quarterly visits to the CHKD cardiologists.

Collin has just finished his first year in college and enjoys life to the fullest. He takes immunosuppressant medications, but otherwise has only vague memories of the traumatic times for his family when they knew their year-old son’s best chance for survival was a heart transplant.

Suzanne and Mark Kobelja will never forget that while they awaited the call for transplant surgery, they happened to be in a Chinese restaurant where little Collin opened a fortune cookie that revealed: “You will have a change of heart.” Within days, they got the call and Collin was rushed to CHKD. It was January 1990.

Now a college student, Collin continued to return to CHKD  – long distance – after his heart transplant surgery.
Now a college student, Collin continued to return to CHKD – long distance – after his heart transplant surgery.

Collin has many happy memories of CHKD over the years and recalls the names of many of the children he met along the way.

“We owe so much to this wonderful cardiology team and the many people who helped us to be a complete family by giving Collin life,” Suzanne said. “Children’s Hospital is the most amazing place, and we feel like we were blessed to live in this region when Collin needed expert care.”

CHKD and its special physicians helped Collin’s dad make another important decision in his life, to become a doctor while serving in the Navy. “He attended medical school in Bethesda and became an anesthesiologist. He is still serving in that capacity with the Navy today,” Suzanne said. “Collin’s experience was truly inspiring to our family, as you can see.”

This story was featured in the third quarter 2008 issue of KidStuff, a publication of Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters.