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As a boy, Michael McFadden would race to the corner of his block to marvel at the fire trucks as they drove by, and his heart would pound as he watched his favorite show “Emergency,” based on the heroics of firefighters and paramedics. This history makes Michael’s present role as captain and paramedic with the Carlsbad Fire Department even more poignant, especially considering the life-threatening health battle he endured just a couple of years ago.
Michael was in his early 40s when doctors diagnosed him with a near-fatal virus that infected his heart and sent him spiraling into congestive heart failure. For more than two years after his diagnosis, Michael struggled to breathe and the once-active firefighter was relegated to desk duty. His condition deteriorated to the point where he dreaded even walking up the stairs in his home and would lie for hours in his recliner using all his might just to breathe.
After months in and out of hospitals, Michael was referred to Dr. Brian E. Jaski, medical director of advanced heart failure at Sharp Memorial Hospital, for testing. After an eight-day stay in the ICU and a battery of tests, it was clear that McFadden would need a new heart to survive. Less than a week later, he underwent a heart transplant.
“I felt whole again once I felt my heartbeat,” Michael remembers. Dr. Jaski’s words continue to resonate with him: “A heart transplant isn’t just about regaining a pulse, but it’s also about regaining life.”
After his recovery and rehabilitation, Michael said there was no question in his mind that he would return to the Carlsbad Fire Department — a place he called home for more than two decades. Not only did he return to work, he was also intent on getting back to the field and away from the desk. Eight months after his surgery, Michael’s transplant team says he became the first firefighter in the nation to return to full active duty after a heart transplant.
For More Information
To find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego cardiologist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.