On October 2, 2004, I suffered an acute myocardial infarction that severely damaged my left ventricle. I was diagnosed with heart failure. I underwent stint placement, a quadruple bypass and an implanted pacemaker/defibulator. For years my disease was managed with medication, diet and exercise.
In 2009, my cardiologist suggested I be evaluated for a heart transplant. I started the evaluation for heart transplant and it was determined the need was borderline. I elected to continue with the current treatment and made some additional lifestyle changes including leaving a profession as a casualty claim employee after 39 years. During the evaluation process I met some wonderful people that had received transplants. A friend from this group introduced me to Indiana Donor Network and I became an advocate. This put me in touch with donor family members too.
The whole bunch are a wonderful group of people, a community that is very dear to my heart. By the time I was at the point I would have to decide about seeking transplant again I had learned so much. In December of 2016 after further decline, it became clear – transplant or placement of an LVAD would be needed. I expected to be evaluated and if accepted I would return home to await the call that could save my life. Instead the doctors told me I was too sick to return home and I entered the hospital on February 2. I spent three months in the hospital waiting for a heart transplant.
The doctors advised that I had less than 6 months to live without a transplant or assistance to maintain my heart pumping oxygen to my organs. As a bridge to transplant an LVAD was placed in April of this year. It is a heart pump that runs on external batteries during the day and a power unit that plugs into the wall at night. I was released from the rehabilitation hospital on May 10. I am continuing an active life with family, friends and pets as I know time is short and life is precious.
Although I remain on the list I’m currently on hold until healed from the latest surgery. I am hopeful a transplant will be possible some day as I miss water sports and horseback riding with the grandkids. Other drawbacks to living with the LVAD is the weight and bulk of the equipment that has to come with me everywhere and the inability to move around freely without being tethered to the wall outlet at night. I am acutely aware that someone else has to die in order for me to live the life I want and that someone else on the list may not be transplanted if I receive the heart. This is why I will do everything within my control to to take care of such a precious gift.
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