BOYLE HEIGHTS ( — A 22-year-old aspiring hip-hop artist and event planner is finally ready to leave the hospital after courageously fighting through numerous open heart surgeries to get a much-needed transplant.

Joe Alerta of North Hollywood started feeling chest pains and shortness of breath in May 2012.

“They said my heart might be enlarged,” he said.

For six months, he said he was feeling better.

In November, however, the symptoms returned. Alerta said he was in and out of illness and went into cardiac arrest.

Doctors at Keck Hospital of USC told him he would need a heart transplant.

“He was dying in front of me. There was nothing I could do,” said Alerta’s mother, Melinda.

Over the next five months, Alerta underwent open heart surgeries to keep him alive until he was well enough to get a new organ.

Hospital staff, family, friends and strangers on social media kept his spirits up.

“Doctors were telling me to pray. All I had was hope,” said Melinda. “I needed a miracle to happen.”

Two days before Easter, the family’s prayers were answered.

“I got a phone call. ‘Get prepared, we found you a heart,’” said Alerta.

Alerta will go home Tuesday just in time to celebrate his 23rd birthday later this week.

“I’m just blessed and fortunate,” he said. “Get a second chance at life.”


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