When Joshua Maurice contracted swine flu in 2009, he landed in the hospital with ventricular tachycardia, a fast heart rate that arises from improper electrical activity in the ventricles of the heart.
“I went to the hospital with stomach and chest pains,” says the 22-year-old from Sunrise. “A week later, I found out I would eventually need a heart transplant.”
While most kids might be overwhelmed by this sobering news, Josh had an epiphany. Until that time, he dreamed of being an engineer. But during his hospital stay, he became captivated by the medical equipment and staff caring for him.
“For five days, I was placed on an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine that pumped and oxygenated my blood outside my body, which allowed my heart to rest,” says Josh. “I was fascinated by it all. So much so, right then and there, I wanted to become a pediatric cardiologist.”
That’s right, 13-year-old Josh, lying in a hospital bed surrounded by medical devices, committed to a life in health care at that very moment.
Josh’s journey to a transplant, however, was just beginning. It wasn’t until five years later during his freshman year at Nova Southeastern that a heart episode landed him in Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood.
“We expected he would have the procedure in South Florida,” says mom Emmanie, “but our AvMed case worker said he needed to go to a hospital with significant experience in pediatric heart transplants. They wanted the best for him.”
Within hours, Josh and Emmanie were on a MedEvac flight to Shands Hospital in Gainesville. Although pleased that AvMed had Josh’s best interest in mind, there was some worry about the added expense.
“With Josh on a transplant list, we knew we’d be waiting for a few months,” says Emmanie. “We decided we were going to be with Josh every day, so my husband was there for four days and then he drove home so I could drive up and stay with Josh for three days.”
The family did the South Florida to Gainesville shuttle from November 2014 through April 2015 until Josh came home. Anticipating a significant expense for the back-and-forth travel, the family got some unexpected news.
“Because we were beyond 50 miles from our home, our expenses up to a certain amount were covered,” says Emmanie. “When AvMed shared that, it was such a huge relief. It let us focus all our energy on Josh’s well-being.”
From his arrival in November 2014 until his surgery in March 2015, there was a lot of impatient waiting. “At one point I told my dad I was ready to go home,” says Josh. “I was more worried about missing classes since I was falling behind. But I knew God had a plan for me.”
Today, holding true to his commitment as a 13-year-old, Josh is preparing for his first year of med school at Nova Southeastern, and he’s excited about the future.
“Having been through the process, I’ll have a unique perspective with children,” says the future pediatric cardiologist. “I’ve been there. I know what it feels like.”