alt=a woman contemplating her heart transplant journey with a new heart, sitting in a hospital

My Heart Transplant Journey

In December 2019, I received a letter from the University of Maryland heart and lung transplant center that stated I made the heart transplant list. A year after my second stroke I was finally on the heart transplant list, but I knew it would be a long wait. Prior to getting on the list, I knew a lot of people who were waiting on the heart transplant list for years. I was also doing so well with the LVAD, the surgeon told me and my family that it would take 2 or 3 years before I got a heart. So there I was just living my life with the LVAD knowing in the back of my mind that it would take years to get a heart. I had the mindset that it would happen but I wasn’t going to stop living my life because I was waiting for a heart.

I had gotten very used to walking around with batteries and I had finally accepted my life the way it was. There are levels called statuses and they start at 1 and end at 6, 1 being the highest priority. I will go into more detail about this in my later articles. The letter stated that I was listed at a status 4 on the heart transplant list meaning I was well enough to be home with the assistance of the LVAD.

Getting the call

On February 1, 2020, my mom and I were out running errands. While we were in the store my phone starts ringing. I looked at my phone and it was a Baltimore number, so I picked up and it was the heart transplant coordinator telling me that they had a heart for me. I immediately went into shock because I couldn’t believe my ears. “They had a heart for who? Me?”, I thought. She told me to get my extra batteries from home and immediately go to the hospital. I went back to my mom with my mind racing and told her that they had a heart for me. She like me was shocked. She paid for the things she had and we went rushing home.

Baltimore, Maryland is about an hour away from where I live when there is traffic. Meanwhile, my whole family was calling me and I was ignoring every call because I was scared to answer. I was thinking about the last time and how hard the recovery was and then whether would I even survive the surgery. We finally arrived at the hospital and walked to hospital admissions and I was still in denial. It wasn’t until I was prepped for surgery that I started looking to God for my strength. The bible verse from 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given me a spirit of fear but one of power, love, and a sound mind”, came to my mind. And from that moment I surrendered it all to God, whether good or bad let your will be done.

Recovering from my heart transplant

I was fully awake on the day after the Superbowl, and I felt nowhere near as much pain as I had with the LVAD surgery. In all actuality, I surprisingly wasn’t in any pain at all. After the LVAD surgery, the pain was unbearable and pain medication was necessary. A day or so from when I woke up, the doctors and nurses had me up walking. It was tiresome but they need to get patients up and walking to prevent blood clots from forming and to start exercising the heart.

I had problems once again with swallowing food and pills as I had after the second stroke I suffered, so they put the tube in my nose for at least a day. When the speech therapist came the next day, she told the nurses to take it out because I didn’t need it. Which was a sigh of relief for me because those things are so painful, not to mention the process of them putting it in. The physical therapist came once a day when I was in the ICU, but when I left the ICU they were coming a minimum of twice and sometimes 3 times a day. I was in the hospital for close to 2 weeks and I was discharged on Valentine’s Day.

That is the end of my Living With Advanced Heart Failure trilogy.

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