Meet Joel and Jan Kessler

Each April in honor of Donate Life Month, we invite current House guests at any stage of the journey to share their experiences.

When Jan’s adult son Joel became very sick in November of 2022, they first thought he had a severe case of pneumonia. But following testing at a hospital in Columbus, Ohio they were told that he had bacteria in his blood that had destroyed two of the valves in his heart. After 5 weeks in the hospital on IV-administered antibiotics, Joel had open heart surgery to replace the two damaged valves.

During the surgery, however, the surgeon found that Joel’s heart had been severely weakened by the stress placed on it. Even after replacing the two valves, Joel’s doctor told him and his mom that he would need a new heart.

“I asked if he had ever seen a heart like Joel’s regenerate with time,” Jan remembers. “He said he had, so we went forward with that hope.”

Joel spent a month in a nursing facility near their home in central Ohio. In the final few days he spent there, Joel knew something was wrong.

“Thank God a night nurse heard his concerns and called the doctor,” Jan says.

The next morning, he was back in the hospital with heart failure. His liver and kidneys were being affected, too. A heart transplant was now Joel’s only option. The team quickly stabilized him for transport to the Cleveland Clinic.

A day after Joel was admitted to the Clinic on March 6th, Jan came to Cleveland with help from a friend. While Jan focused her attention on her son’s care, her friend began to look for a place Jan could stay that would allow her to be near her son. She learned about Transplant House from a staff member at the Clinic and immediately called on Jan’s behalf.

“God opened doors,” Jan says, “and I was blessed to come here [to Transplant House] within days of my arrival in Cleveland.”

From the moment she stepped into her apartment at Transplant House Jan has felt cared for and supported.

“The people here really care about us. When I moved in there were sweet little things on the counter to get me started – coffee, tea, sweetener. Everything one could need to live here is in place for a person.”

And, if it isn’t, Jan says that the staff can usually find it.

“I didn’t have a hair dryer, so they got me one the next day.”

And while something like this may seem simple, meeting these basic needs helps families and caregivers to focus on what is most important: supporting their loved one and making sure that they care for themselves too.

“This place is an oasis in a very hard time in our lives,” Jan says. “The hand of God and His grace is all over this place and in the manner of each of the staff. The atmosphere is warm with loving care.”

Joel has been evaluated and approved for transplant. And though he has been stabilized while he waits for a new heart, his state of health is fragile. He is completely reliant on medical equipment to keep his heart pumping; but Jan is hopeful. For the Kesslers, like for so many transplant families, the wait is a time of cautious hope and of anxiety.

“He’s been beautifully cared for,” Jan says. “I hope Joel can join me soon in my apartment at Transplant House post-op!”

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