My Heart Belongs to Riley: Kobe's Story

February 5, 2015
Topics: Heart (cardiology), Riley Kid Story

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Kobe Brannan, Marshall, Ill., with Kaleb Barker-Switzer, Crawfordsville, Ind., and Child Life Specialist Jenna Yarnell

I was born with a series of serious heart problems and had my first heart transplant as a baby. I did really well, and even played basketball for my high school team during my freshman year. But during my sophomore year, I started getting short of breath. At a visit with my Riley cardiologist Dr. Robert Darragh, I found out I had transplant coronary artery disease. To get better, I needed a new heart.

When I got the call in October that a heart was available for my transplant, I was happy. I couldn't believe it was actually happening. But when it got closer to time to go back for surgery, I kind of lost it.  I was scared and very nervous. Riley Child Life Specialist Jenna Yarnell walked back to surgery with me and talked to me. I asked her what they were going to do, and she explained everything. She stayed with me until I went to sleep. After surgery, Jenna came to see me and would bring me whatever I needed or wanted. 

I cannot imagine what I would have done without Jenna. I was terrified, and she helped me through it all. She is a very important part of my team and know she will do whatever she can to make me feel comfortable. Riley Kids are lucky to have Child Life Specialists like her. They make your hospital stay as comfortable as possible. They answer your questions. When you are scared, they try to lessen your fears.

Dr. Mark Turrentine was my surgeon for both heart transplants. He did a good job the first time so I was glad he was there to do it again. Dr. Turrentine checked on me every day after surgery until I was released from the hospital. I could ask him questions and I knew exactly what was going on.  I am also thankful for Debbie Murphy, my transplant nurse. She helps my family and me with everything in the hospital and at home. We would not make it through the day without her support. 

Today, I am doing great. I am ready to get out of the house and spend time with my friends. I am able to go to a church gym during the day to dribble my basketball and shoot baskets. My goals for this year are to be able to go back to school, play basketball in open gym, and be able to go to public places without a mask. 

I can't say enough about the care I received at Riley. Everyone cares about me and does whatever they can to help. I feel like they are family and really want the best for me. 

Thank you to everyone at Riley for the amazing care they give daily. And thank you to everyone that donates to the hospital and its special programs. No one wants to stay in a hospital, but at Riley there are so many good distractions that it is okay. I love Riley and would not go anywhere else! 

To make a gift to the My Heart Belongs to Riley campaign, please visit

Kobe Brannan

Kobe Brannan is a 16-year-old Riley cardiology patient and a student at Marshall High School in Marshall, Ill. He received his first heart transplant as an infant, and needed another heart transplant in fall 2014. Kobe and his family are especially grateful to Riley’s cardiology team and Child Life Specialists for their care and support. He enjoys playing basketball, hunting, fishing and driving his truck.

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