SAN MARCOS, Calif. (AP) — Deanna Kremis remembers the exhilarating day her young sons first had the energy to race each other up a flight of stairs.
The brothers, then ages 7 and 10, could barely walk before having heart transplants just a month apart. As they flew up the steps two at a time, jostling and shouting, she recalled, "my friend turned to me and said, 'Are YOU ready to get one now?'"
It was a joke that became prophesy. Her health, too, was slipping away because of the same inherited cardiac condition. By the time she received her own transplant in July, her heart was so weak she fainted while walking down the hall, collapsed mid-sentence and passed out in the middle of dinner at a friend's house.
Her decline was terrifying for her sons, who were just beginning to embrace their lives with donor hearts and now saw their worst memories reflected in their mother's struggle. All three have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition that causes the heart muscle to thicken until it can't pump properly. Kremis' mother and brother also have it, as did her grandmother.
"We just didn't like seeing her go through the pain and stuff," said Trevin, now 13. "We knew what it felt like."
The 44-year-old stay-at-home mom for this family of five now finds herself in the unusual position of getting advice on post-transplant life from her sons while coordinating a never-ending regimen of pills and doctor's appointments that has become her fulltime job. She also homeschools Trevin, who struggles with severe osteoporosis from the anti-rejection medicine he takes daily.
In the daily whirlwind, she still worries about her sons, who are thriving but face the constant threat of organ rejection and infection. Matthew has been hospitalized once for rejection and Trevin had eight fractures in one year from his osteoporosis. A third son — her eldest — and her husband are healthy.