A True Assist
Vanessa Hughes' two sons live in vastly different worlds. Larry, her eldest, is coming off a breakout season where he made the NBA All-Defensive Team as a member of the Washington Wizards, and an off-season in which the Cleveland Cavaliers signed him to a five-year, $65 million contract. Meanwhile, Justin, her youngest (celebrating the new contract with Larry and his agent, at left), is struggling with the effects of a heart transplant. In May, Justin began having flu-like symptoms, which would be nothing to be concerned about for an ordinary 19-year-old, but doctors discovered that Justin was rejecting the heart. "Transplanted organs can last 20-30 years, but anything from a common cold to stepping on a nail can attack the heart,â€ Mrs. Hughes says.
Justin was born with transposition of the great vessels, meaning his heart's two main vessels were switched. The condition led to him having open-heart surgery at 10 months, which was only a temporary fix. Although he was more susceptible to illness than other kids and got tired faster, Justin had a normal childhood. But in 1996, just as his big bro started to get recognized for his work on the hardwood, Justin's heart began deteriorating. On Jan. 2, 1997, Justin underwent transplant surgery, receiving the heart of a 16-year-old girl who had died in a car accident. While Justin continued to attend school, swim, even play a little ball, he was required to take 30 to 40 pills a day.