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April 15, 2009
My name is Debbie Kinney and I am 53 years old. I was born with a rare heart condition. My heart didn't start showing symptoms until I was 24 years old. Since then, I've had five open-heart surgeries, several pacemaker implants and a defibrillator. In November of 2006, my heart was failing quickly and I was given the opportunity to have a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) implanted. That was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life!
Debbie and her husband, Larry, on their Panama Canal cruise.
Since living with the LVAD I've been able to do so much more and it gave me my life back. It also gave me the opportunity to be strong enough to take medications for my hepatitis C that I contracted during my second open-heart surgery through a blood transfusion in 1982. I didn't even know I had hepatitis C until 2004 and found out that I needed to take medications for a year that had severe side effects. I'm not going to lie, I was really scared to take these medications. I had heard so many awful stories about the side effects. If I didn't have the LVAD, my heart would have been too weak to handle these medications. I finally completed the year program and had to wait six months for the results.
It was on Monday, Oct. 14, last year  when I found out I was clear of hepatitis C. The hepatitis C was holding me back from being eligible for a heart transplant. I owe a world of thanks to Dr. Douglas Politoske, who was sympathetic to my situation and was willing to give me a chance with the medications (the percentage of success is not very high). I can't tell you how happy I was to get the news that I was clear of hepatitis C and could now move forward in trying to be placed on the heart transplant list.
I had to go through a series of tests and found out in November  that I qualified to be placed on the heart transplant list with the blessings of Dr. Rob Adamson, heart transplant surgeon. I can't tell you how many family, friends and complete strangers are rooting for me!
I decided not to be listed until the end of January 2009. For several years my husband, myself, my father and two other couples had been talking about going on a Panama Canal cruise. We were already booked to go on the cruise the first part of January. So I asked if I could be listed after we got back from our cruise. Our cruise took us to the wonderful ports of Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama Canal, Colombia and Cayo Levantado. We went through the beautiful rain forest in Costa Rica and through the Panama Canal (an unbelievable experience). We all had such a fun time and laughed so much throughout the entire cruise. It was a great experience for all of us and I was glad I got to go before being listed. Follow more of Debbie's heart transplant journey.
For More Information
To learn more about the heart transplant program at Sharp Memorial Hospital, please contact the program directly by calling 858-939-3831, Monday through Friday, 7 am to 3:30 pm.
To learn more or to find a cardiologist affiliated with Sharp, please call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-824-4277) or go to Find a Doctor.