SAN DIEGO - A 7-year-old boy became the first child in San Diego history to live with an external artificial heart machine pumping his blood.
One year after receiving his new heart, Kupono Kahapea left Rady Children's Hospital on Thursday.
Kupono came to San Diego from Hawaii in April 2015. He then spent 42 days on the ventricular assist device (VAD) before a new heart became available on May 25, 2015.
"You know, I think some adults would just quit," said Kupono's teary-eyed father Kalei Kahapea.
"He's incredibly brave. He's very strong," said Rady Children's Hospital pediatric nurse practitioner Teresa Gonzalez.
During his ordeal, young Kupono also suffered a stroke. Last fall, his body started rejecting his heart, and his father said it stopped beating for 15 minutes.
Doctors were able to revive him, but Kupono had to learn how to walk, talk and eat all over again.
The family relocated to San Diego from Hawaii the entire year Kupono was in the hospital.
His dad hopes his son's battle and time spent on the VAD would allow Rady Children's Hospital staff to be able to save more children in need of a heart.