When it comes to recovering from a life-threatening illness, sometimes the best medicine isn't medicine at all. For a six-year-old Seattle Children's Hospital patient, it took meeting his favorite rapper to finally bounce back again.
A heart infection nearly killed AJ Hwangbo last November.
“He was unconscious and dying, so we took him to the operating room and put in this device and that stabilized him and over the next several days he got better and we could take out the device,” said Dr. Mike McMullan, Seattle Children’s Cardiac Surgery. “I mean it was amazing. He was perfectly fine and then dying.”
Although AJ proudly shows off his scar now, his recovery took weeks. And his heart healed much faster than his spirit did.
“He was not speaking, wasn't eating, swallowing,” said AJ’s dad, Andrew Hwangbo.
“Despite the fact that physiologically he was better, he was a bit subdued, withdrawn - more than I would have expected,” said Dr. McMullan.
And then came the surprise. A Children Hospital's donor had given two tickets to a sold-out Mackelmore concert, AJ’s favorite artist. But would AJ be well enough to go? His mother wasn't so sure.
“He had not been communicating, not even nodding, and he had the biggest smile on his face after I told him he was going to go to the Mackelmore concert,” said AJ’s mom, Yoo-Lee Yea.
Not only did AJ get to meet his hero backstage, Mackelmore also autographed a poster.
“He proceeded to sign ‘To AJ, the boy with the biggest heart, love and strength Mackelmore,’” said AJ’s mom.
“Frankly he seemed to get better after visiting with Macklemore, so maybe we should put him on staff,” said Dr. McMullan.
Maybe so. If AJ and little brother Alex are any indication, that Macklemore medicine is continuing to do its job.
AJ’s prognosis is good. He's back in school now and obviously back to being his old self again.