We are championing brother and uncle Dr. Jesse A. Rhines, through the journey of his life. As a lifelong teacher, former professor and loyal friend, he is in need of a heart transplant. Jesse was born and raised in Washington D.C. and went on to pursue and obtain his PhD from Berkeley University of California. While traveling abroad and pursuing his passion for photography, African American studies, Jesse made it a regular routine to visit family often to share stories and experiences with “the brats” he called us (young family members: sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews) of all his travel adventures, learnings and encounters.
While teaching at Rutgers one morning, Jesse passed out on the floor. We later learned that he was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (See HCM) The nickname for this condition is “sudden death”. As expected, Jesse was surprised with the news and we, his family was shocked and saddened. However, this did not affect Jesse’s spirit.
Since 1993, Jesse has received at least four new pacemakers (the battery lasts between about 6 and 8 years). Despite pacemakers, the heart continues to deteriorate. Jesse says the heart gets increasingly tired of beating and he has become weary. In 2004, with serious deterioration, a new ICD/pacemaker was installed. The implantable cardioverter defibrillator is a portable device that acts as those paddles that TV doctors use to deliver shocks to restart a heart. The device would often give vast jolting shocks. One incident occurred, when Jesse was shocked while riding his bike one day in downtown Los Angeles, and had to flag an officer to call the ambulance.
Shortly after the incident, Jesse experienced constant fatigue and shortness of breath which is when he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, which caused his body to fill with liquid, which would periodically block his lungs. He has to go to the ER during these times for constant and routine diuresis where he was often times admitted.
In 2012, he waited too long for a diuresis procedure, because he was traveling abroad, and had a mild stroke on the return to the hospital.
Over the next year doctors debated how best to treat him as the heart continued to deteriorate. Jesse saw a specialist who gave him three options: installation of a bicartial pacemaker to control more of the heart, living in a hospice until death, or having a heart transplant.
Dr. Rhines selected the bicardial device, which was installed in April 2015. Afterwards, he felt great for about six months when he demonstrated orthostatic hypotension, wherein the blood pressure drops precipitously occurred while sitting or standing. His blood pressure had dropped from his norm of 81/48 to 53/? (extremely low).
In addition to his condition, doctors had to give him dopamine to raise his pressure and help the heart continue beating. It was at this point when doctors told Jesse that a heart transplant would be the only option to keep him alive. Once put on the transplant list he would need 24-hour monitoring and a live-in caregiver. Jesse was successfully placed on the transplant list, listed for several weeks now, awaiting a heart. The time is near. He was notified today, that he may have a heart for him tonight. Whether tonight or tomorrow, the time is upon us. Its going to happen soon.
With the mental support of family members, a sister (Marsha) and niece (Val) who volunteered for this dutiful responsibility requested by Jamilla, his oldest sister. However, with both working full time, in Washington DC and the other in Dallas, TX, the request of funding would allow them to take a leave of absence, relocate and/or make the necessary sacrifice to attend to the medical needs of Jesse. Recovery could take up to six months; one of the requirments for Jesse to get listed was to have two committed caregivers.
He has been fighting a good fight since 1993. Five pacemakers later and the veins to his heart have depleted. The medical team at Kaiser and Cedars say that “its time” to replace his warrior heart that has served him so well throughout the years. We, along with our family are walking with him to take on his new heart. It will be three rigorous months unification and strength building towards his complete wellness.
There will be need for 24-hour caregivers and secondary individuals to provide the two primary caregivers, Marsha and Val to come forth for Jesse. He is not only a contributor to the education system, but to society as a whole. His love of the people and its community greatly overwhelms all who know him. Now we want to show our love in return and hope that this message will grant us the opportunity without interruption to care for him as he embarks onto another chapter in his life.
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