It Was Like Winning The Lotto

My dad had been suffering from Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and in desperate need of a heart transplant since 2012. The symptoms became extremely severe last September 2015, when he lost the ability to walk on his own.  After months of medication including a home care peripherally inserted central catheter (picc-line) of Milrinone IV that fed directly to his heart (requires 24 hour care), and multiple visits to the ER due to shortness of breath and fluid build-up in his lungs, my dad reached a point where medicine was not enough. After months of alternative treatment, we knew it would be like winning the lotto if he got approved for a heart transplantation. 

Late January 2016, my father was hospitalized due to his Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) going off for the first time since the implantation 4 years ago, due to arrhythmias (irregular heart beats) in his heart.  We were lucky enough to get admitted to Cedars Sinai after waiting over  two days for a hospital bed to open up in the Intensive Care Unit.  *Currently, there are only three heart transplantation centers in Southern California: Cedars Sinai, UCLA and USC.

Less than a few hours after getting admitted, my dad was required for emergency surgery in the catheter lab to receive Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) treatment. This bypass machine basically does the job of your heart and lungs by oxygenating your blood back into your body. At this point, you are on advanced life support and cannot be on this treatment for long as it affects other vital organs.

My family was in shock and terrified of the outcome. I signed the consent form so the surgeon could attempt to save his life – which he did.  I hate to admit it but minutes before, we had been arguing in the hospital café about future caregiver help. But now, we didn't know if it would be required.

Thankfully the procedure was a success. Our next step was to wait for the staff of Cardiology to present my father’s case and decide if he was eligible for a heart transplant.

There are three requirements to be considered for a heart transplant:

1.       Medical assessment
2.       No other medical issues
3.       Emotional and social support of loved ones

We were thrilled to learn he was approved. Two days later, he was scheduled for surgery. If a donor heart became available, he would receive a heart transplant.  Instead, he received a TAH. He was in surgery for 5 hours and we were told he had a 50-60% chance of survival. The nurse for the operating room will take down a point person’s phone number and call you when surgery starts, every hour after that and once surgery is completed. Below was our timeline:

11:20 -  Surgery started
12:58 - Surgery in progress
3:00 - Heart is in
4:00 - Surgery complete

***Note: the Operating Room can be quite busy and your scheduled surgery may or may not happen the time or day it was scheduled. You must be patient and trust that your doctors are making the best decisions for your loved one and other patients that need help.

THE RECOVERY Blog coming soon…