After Estefano Reano blew out the 14 candles on his birthday pepperoni pizza, he closed his eyes and made a wish.
The teen, who doesn’t like cake, didn’t ask for fancy electronics or to go somewhere with his friends. Instead he asked for something he prayed for every night: a new heart.
“That’s all I’ve wanted for a long time,” said the Weston teenager, who was born with a congenital heart condition and has been on a transplant list for two years.
That night, on Nov. 10, he said, “someone was listening.”
“I couldn’t believe,” he said.
Only 30 minutes after he made his wish, as he played his new video game, his mother and stepfather came in to deliver the news.
“There is one more present for you,” his stepfather, Alfonso Ospino, said after his wife got the phone call they had been waiting for. “They have a heart.”
Within hours the teen was at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital getting prepped for his sixth — and most important — heart surgery.
The next day he had a new heart.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said his mother, Roxana Fergusson. “We got the perfect heart for him at the perfect time.”
Nearly a month after his surgery, Estefano went to the hospital on Tuesday with his mother, stepfather and 8-year-old brother, Sebastian, to thank the team that saved him and gave him “the best present ever.”
For the hospital, Estefano’s surgery also marked an important milestone. His surgery marked the 30th heart transplant for the hospital’s program, which will celebrate its sixth anniversary this week.
“These are children that otherwise may not have survived,” said Maryanne Chrisant, the medical director of the pediatric heart transplant cardiomyopathy and heart-failure services at the hospital.
Chrisant, who stressed the importance of organ donation, said there are five other children currently on the hospital’s wait list.
Estefano was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means that only one side of his heart was pumping blood. He had five surgeries that helped the problem, but two years ago he was placed on the waiting list for a new heart.
Because his heart wasn’t functioning the way a normal heart would, Estafano’s growth was stunted and he got tired easily. His physical activity was restricted and he didn’t really have an appetite.
He was, however, able to wait at home and not in the hospital.
Fergusson said watching her son not developing the same way as other boys his age — he is about the same size as his younger brother — was hard.
“As he got older, it got harder,” she said.
But as a faithful believer, she said she knew her — and his — prayers would be answered.
She has already seen a huge improvement in her son, who was in the hospital for 16 days. One of her favorite things: She heard him say “I’m hungry” for the first time in years.
“He is eating everything now,” she said.
Now the bubbly teen looks forward to playing basketball, eating “any kind of chicken,” and traveling, especially to see his father in Peru.
He does have one message to the family who decided to give the gift of life in their time of sorrow.
“You’ve given me a second chance,” he said. “I feel so sorry for them, but I am so grateful.”