“Success is the good fortune that comes from aspiration, desperation, perspiration and inspiration.”
“Luck has a strange and annoying habit of favoring those who do not depend on it.”
As a heart transplant patient, I am often asked what has made my transplant so successful.
The answer is not a short one, but beyond the specifics I will write about below, I believe there is a certain amount of “luck” involved. I say this because I have some very close, kindred heart transplant friends that have played by ALL the rules and they have had plenty of issues, through no fault of their own. And, at times, my “luck” hasn’t been the greatest as I saw when I contracted “Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease” a number of months ago. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Success is NOT a one person thing when it comes to a heart transplant. All the testing beforehand and those people involved are part of my success. My world-class surgeon below, “Gonzo”, who transplanted my heart was a HUGE part of my success. The doctors, nurses, technical staff that kept me alive, that gave me time to heal, that have taught me so very much and have nurtured, challenged and supported me so long are a large part of this success.
I was not successful without a LOT of people being involved!
Luck, good or bad, is something we don’t have any control over.
In my opinion, these are the “pillars” of heart transplant “success” that the patient can control, to a degree.
TEAM – Your team starts with YOU, the patient. You have to be honest and upfront with your doctors about your health, diet, exercise, vitals signs, aches, pains, emotions and mental health status. Your team is a large group of doctors that will include your PCP, transplant docs, and then many other specialists …… orthopedics, urologists, dermatologists, gastroenterologists, etc., etc. Right below the doc’s, yet maybe even more important are your “transplant coordinators” ….. these are the folks you will communicate with frequently. And don’t forget the very important folks on the administrative staff, they call in your prescriptions, set our appointments, deal with insurance issues. Your team, at times may also include dietary folks, social workers, exercise and other specialists. On your team you need support ….. this will most likely be family and some close friends. Some of my greatest supporters are others on the same path ….. other heart recipients that have become kindred friends. Other recipients tend to know much more about your thoughts and feelings. Do NOT be afraid to ask anyone on YOUR team any questions. Learn from them and listen to them and at times you have to challenge them. Believe me, you need a GOOD team!! (I would be remiss if I didn’t include my HERO donor and donor family as a part of my team. Without the organ donor, there is no story, no hope, no transplant.)
MEDICATIONS – You will be prescribed a LOT of drugs, learn them, know their side effects, take them exactly as you’re told, exactly when you are told. The doc’s will add drugs, take others away, change you to different medications. It’s daunting at times, but VERY important to stay on top of your meds. Watch your inventory so you ALWAYS have ALL your meds available. I started off on 55 pills and 2 injections a day. It seems scary, but you can and will manage this!
DIET – You need to be mindful of what you consume. The first few months are more critical, but then a normal healthy diet will probably be your norm. We strive to watch sodium and saturated fats ….. but each of us are different. I’ve also been on low potassium diets, and we all have different dietary needs. Your TEAM, above, will help you with diet suggestions and planning. (My first few months were VERY difficult in terms of diet)
EXERCISE – To me, exercise, in combination with diet and medications all go hand-in-hand. In my mind it is imperative to get daily exercise. Often, I’ve been told or have read that even 30 minutes a day is good for you ….. Cardio is the best, but even are walking at a brisk pace, will help. Keep that new heart PUMPING!!
CLEANLINESS – BECOME A GERMOPHOBE!! Wash you hands FREQUENTLY, use hand sanitizer a LOT. Stay away from sick people. Stay out of confined areas during flu/cold season. And, if you feel the need or are directed, wear a mask. I wear one frequently when flying and always when gardening.
ATTITUDE – Your mental approach in your recovery and well-being is vitally important. How you look at life, your faith in your God and in your TEAM (above) are all vitally important. Think positive, be positive and it will help in the long run. Become the “eternal optimist”. Be forever grateful for this gift of life that you have received. And, remember, there will be those days when you will get down. We all have them. It’s those times you need to reach out to your support team …. your family, your friends ….. and talk it out, lean of their shoulders. Believe me, this heart transplant stuff can be a VERY emotional journey at times. NEVER, EVER GIVE UP!! LIKE EVER!!
COMPLIANCE – Do what you are told to do, when you are told to do it!!! ….. Call when you don’t feel well and you meet that criteria to call your TEAM. Take your medications as directed, be on-time for ALL appointments, and follow-up as required. More than likely you do NOT have “M.D.” after your name …… listen to the experts as they have already saved you life and they will keep you alive. Listen to the experts and at the same time, listen to your body. It is whispering, so listen carefully!
LUCK – “If you want to know what it feels like to be lucky, take a breath.”
Success or luck? We are all part of God’s plan ….. he IS in CONTROL!!!