A Heart Transplant Story Worth the Wait
The heart transplant journey begins
AHN is one of only two heart transplant programs in western Pennsylvania – and has the best 3 year survival rate according to Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR)+. Armed with this information, the prospect of a transplant gave Moses hope for a long, happy future.
“The vast majority of our heart transplant patients do quite well, and it is extremely gratifying to see them at various locations and events in the community after making it through the heart transplantation process,” said Stephen Bailey, MD, surgical director of the Cardiac Transplant Program.
However, finding a donor heart proved challenging for Moses and his care team. He had a rare blood type, which meant many of the donor hearts that became available were not a match for him. All the while, his symptoms were getting worse.
More bumps in the road
Moses’ doctors delivered an innovative treatment to help him avoid further complications. They gave his worn out heart muscles a break with the help of a ventricular assist device (VAD). The implantable device uses mechanical pumps to push blood through the heart. AHN played an instrumental role in the development of left ventricular assist devices (LVAD).*
But there would be more hurdles to overcome. Moses experienced internal bleeding shortly after receiving his VAD. Then there was a false alarm with a donor heart. After examining the heart, doctors determined it was not a good fit for Moses. He would have to continue waiting.
While the VAD was keeping Moses alive, it was also difficult to live with. The batteries powering the device were outside his body and could not get wet. He couldn’t take a shower. Moses began to wonder if he would ever get a new heart.
But he took comfort in the care he received from his transplant physician, Manreet Kanwar, MD, and her team. “Our patients are precious to us,” said Dr. Kanwar. “We put them in the center of our work and do everything we can for them.”
Moses received plenty of encouragement from his large team of experts, including nutritionists and specially trained nurses. He said the confidence of his care team gave him much-needed reassurance that everything would be OK. And it was. Through it all, Moses’ care team kept him well enough to wait for his donor heart at home instead of the hospital.
At last, a new heart and a new life
Moses’ patience paid off. In early 2016 – more than four years after going on the transplant list – a donor heart became available. And it was a perfect fit. He was overjoyed.
Moses underwent transplant surgery in February 2016 and has hardly sat still since then. In May, he had the honor of throwing out the first pitch at a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game. Now, he is an organ donor advocate and is training for a 10K.
But Moses’ story would not have been possible without the generosity of an organ donor. In Pennsylvania, more than 100 people are waiting for a heart transplant. You can increase their chances of receiving this life-saving treatment by becoming an organ donor. Find out more about organ donation from Donate Life Pennsylvania.
+SRTR.org/Source: Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. Transplant Information. www.srtr.org. Accessed August 2018.