Your Stories – Stories of the Heart (1/2)

Compile and Written by Scrubadoo’s Avery Teichman

Valentines Day celebrates the moments in life when one’s heart skips a beat. A desired experience for single ladies completing a successful first date, fathers walking their daughters down the aisle, new moms receiving their first non gas-induced smile, and a child’s first kissing attack from a beloved puppy pal. In the Emergency Room, however, hearts skipping a beat is cause for concern and action. That is, unless the heart that’s pumping is a new heart – an organ transplant – giving a patient a new lease on life.

In honor of Valentines Day, we asked medical professionals and donor recipients to share their stories about heart transplants, heart attacks, and even love in the ER. salutes all nurses, doctors, and other medical practitioners dedicated to matters of the heart.

Susan May, author of Nick’s New Heart, tells about her son’s life saving transplant. May writes, “Sometimes just having the chance to live an everyday life can be the most exciting dream of all.”

The following is an edited excerpt of Susan May’s own words:

In April 1989, my son Nick was born with a three-chambered heart, plus three additional heart defects. Nick had his first heart surgery when he was five days old. He was given only a fifty/fifty chance of survival. This was the first of a two-stage surgery. My husband and I were told to expect the next surgery to occur around Nick’s second birthday. However, at three and a half months old, Nick required an additional, unplanned surgery. During this surgery, the nerve to Nick’s diaphragm was damaged and he remained on a respirator in ICU for seven long and difficult weeks. Just after Nick’s first birthday he needed another heart surgery. Due to complications, he almost died on the operating room table.

A few months before Nick turned two I was asked, “How do you feel about a heart transplant?”

We waited for six weeks, living through one false alarm, for Nick’s new heart. On March 21, 1991 we received the call that there was a heart for Nick. He was going to have a new heart – a new chance at life.

He grew and attended pre-school, even rode the bus to school his first day of kindergarten. He has learned to swim, snow ski, water ski, and has seen forty-nine of the fifty states and thirteen countries in Europe. He has been a member of Team Georgia at nine of the Transplant Games. In high school, he was a manager for the football team and played tennis four years. He has since started college, but had to withdraw when an infection settled on the site of his first surgery at five days old. His aorta was replaced and a pacemaker, for a slow heart rate, was put in. Back in college, studying sports management, Nick is doing well despite many obstacles.

Heart transplants are not a fix, but a treatment. We still worry about rejection and the future. But with all things said and done, it has been wonderful to see Nick grow up, and turn into a young man that understands the value of good health. Nick’s life wouldn’t have been possible without the precious gift of a heart transplant.

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