Tabor College student Jerin Kliewer was diagnosed with a congenital heart valve defect shortly after birth and had open-heart surgery when he was two-weeks-old.
More than 20 years later, Kliewer went under the knife again, and with the same surgeon. On Dec. 16, 2008 at University of California-Los Angelese Medical Center, he spent between six and eight hours in surgery to replace a heart valve with a valve from a pig’s heart.
When he was 12, Kliewer had surgery to transplant an artificial valve in his heart, but the results weren’t promising. Shortly after, another surgery replaced that valve. Doctors estimated the valve would last about 10 years before it needed replaced; it worked until his December surgery.
Kliewer was hopeful he would be out of college before a new valve was needed, but it didn’t work out. He said the pig’s valve should last about 15 years before he needs another surgery. He has two checkups a year for his heart condition.
Heart valve replacements were relatively new surgeries when he was younger, and Kliewer was at the frontier of surgical medicine as a patient.
“I feel like there has to be a reason God has kept me alive,” he said.
Tabor College was very helpful through the ordeal, Kliewer said. President Jules Glanzer gave him personal assurances to help stay on track for graduation.
He said there also was a 24-hour prayer chain for his recovery.
Kliewer is a native of Reedley, Calif. He plans to graduate in May with a degree in Christian ministry, and he appreciates the extra chances he has been given.
“Every day is a gift from God,” Kliewer said.