Heart patient, 21, waits for transplant approval

Twenty-one-year-old Daniel Lasprilla’s life is measured in beats.

His deteriorated heart pumps along slowly, but without the medications sustaining it, it wouldn’t pump at all.

Without a transplant, Lasprilla’s heart will come to a stop. The only thing standing in his way is the backing of Medicaid, which has failed to provide him with the immediate insurance a case like his requires.

“In the meantime, he is deteriorating,” said Lasprilla’s mother, Betty Otero.

Lasprilla has been in the intensive care unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital since early May, attached to a machine that pumps medicine directly into his heart.

“When they take off the medicine, his heart doesn’t beat,” Otero said. “It doesn’t beat.”

Lasprilla was fired from his job in the office of Pulmonary Physicians of South Florida after he was out sick for a week. He lost the insurance coverage his job provided. And Medicaid had taken a long time to review his case. Pending. That’s all it said.

Meanwhile, his family has scrambled to bring the case to the attention of Medicaid. His mother said she couldn’t understand why a case of this severity hadn’t received the attention it deserved.

“I have moved sky and land,” Otero said. “I have knocked on doors to get him the help he needs.”

They have turned to friends, co-workers, connections. “I feel impotent to see that we have to rush to contacts to ask for help in other places for something that should be done with no other recommendation,” said Lasprilla’s aunt, Betty Marriaga.

Co-worker Ashley Carlisle helped set up a page, “Save Danny,” through, an online fundraising site. As of Monday afternoon, he had $912 in donations, with individuals donating as much as $100. The goal: $1 million.

Lasprilla’s heart has always been a case of extremes. When he was 8, a virus left him with an inflamed heart muscle. His heartbeat was irregular and his condition worsened into heart disease. A pacemaker was installed to regulate his heartbeat, but that too was faulty.

“He had 24 electric shocks in one day,” Otero, 51, said. “My son is alive by a miracle.”

Once the faulty pacemaker was replaced, Lasprilla’s life continued relatively normally. He lost his father when he was 13 from injuries sustained in a body shop explosion.

In February, he became a pool attendant at St. Regis. It was a job closer to home with more pay to help support his widowed mother and disabled 25-year-old brother. Portions of his paycheck went to helping his mother. He’d also help around the house.

“He doesn’t ask me for anything,” Otero said. “He is independent.”

Lasprilla’s independence came to a halting stop this March as he was at work.

He started feeling sick and was sent home, Carlisle, 31, recalls. He was back a few days later, but she knew something was wrong.

“Another time at work he started throwing up blood and they sent him home in an ambulance,” she said. “I was like, ‘What is going on?’ Someone said he had a pacemaker.”

Lasprilla was soon admitted to Aventura Hospital and Medical Center. Not aware of his condition (his doctors were at Jackson) the hospital allowed Lasprilla to discharge himself to move to Jackson.

“They didn’t send him in an ambulance,” Marriaga, 46, said. “They just let him leave alone. It was a major error.”

Lasprilla, with a heart that was weakening by the minute, made the trek to Jackson alone. “I was getting stuck in traffic and I was nauseous,” he said. “It was pretty bad”

But the hardest part of the journey was still ahead. Lasprilla now waits until Medicaid gives him the aid that will get him on the list for a heart transplant.

His days move slowly. He is often in pain. He is scared to eat because he thinks he’ll vomit.

“It’s hard to see him like that,” Carlisle said, choking up. “When I went to see him last time, the doctors were in there every two seconds poking and prodding him. He was throwing up. There were three IVs in him.”

Slews of cousins pass through his room on the fourth floor of the critical care unit, lucky room No. 7. Moments of happiness come with Miami Heat game wins. His family remains a constant presence and a driving force. “With all of these people taking care of him it looks like a light has opened up,” Marriaga said.

Lasprilla, in a voice heavy with exhaustion, said he knows he has a wall of support behind him and that helps with positive thinking.

“I think about the things that I enjoy doing and I tell myself that I have to be strong and think positive and just know that I’m going to be out soon,” he said.

At about 5 p.m. Friday, a light opened up: Medicaid’s approval came through.

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