Heart Transplant Video: Debbie's Story

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Debbie: Who do you think is gonna get booted off tonight Larry? There go my batteries.

Dr. Robert Adamson, Cardiac Surgeon: Debbie is an amazing woman. Very difficult heart disease, multiple surgeries in the past. Presented in terminal heart failure. At one point in time we felt it was risky to transplant her. To keep her alive, we put a left ventricular assist device in.

Debbie: It got to the point where I was in a wheelchair and I had an oxygen tank.

Dr. Adamson: The left ventricular assist devices are implanted just below the diaphragm. There is however a small cable that penetrates the skin that connects to batteries. Eventually she will not be able to be supported just with the left ventricular assist device. If we’ve not been able to transplant Debbie, we’ll need to put a new pump in, or her life will end.

Debbie: I’m just looking forward to having a heart that will allow me to really enjoy my life again.

Kristi: When I get to call them and tell them we have a heart it's like calling to tell them the baby is coming, pack your bags, I mean here comes the rest of your life.

Debbie: There’s times at nighttime I get a scared feeling. I feel veins pounding in my neck; the heart that is in me right now it's really struggling.

Kristi: We’re waiting for the perfect heart. Fingers crossed.

Debbie: Every night I pray and I ask God for that perfect heart for me.

Nurse: Feeling well?

Debbie: My right side of my heart is having some difficulties but, its you know I’m just trying to keep it hanging in there, until….

Kristi: When I call them and tell them we have a heart, it's like calling to tell them here comes the rest of your life.

Debbie: I was in the car crying as I got the news. I was driving when they called me. It's almost kind of like just before your wedding day.

Nurse: Oh, you feel like a bride again?

Debbie: I do. It's kind of a bittersweet moment though. ‘Cause you’re excited about the new heart but then it's sad to say bye to the old.

Nurse: Yeah.

Debbie: It's been, even though I’ve had my problems you know, it's made me hang in there.

Nurse: But you’re going to have this whole new lease on life. And you’re going to enjoy all those things that you haven’t for so long. Oh, I can’t wait, I can’t wait.

Colleen: I think all of us every day see patients that inspire us, with their courage and with their desire to get better, to get stronger. We are in the business of hope. And that’s our job is to say never give up.

Dr. Brian Jaski, Interventional Cardiologist: We’ve taken so many steps and there’s a whole succession of steps that still has to take place.

Female: Right.

Dr. Jaski: I’ve looked at the ECHO, on this heart it's fabulous. So I think from that standpoint, things are looking good so far.

Debbie: I’m just, I’m so excited.

Vicki: First hurdle is cross matched results.

Vicki: If the cross matches are positive, which means that the heart will not work, then I’m going to be sending her home. You do have some very weak antibodies that are against this donor. That’s why we do the cross matches, to be 100% sure. If it's going forward, everything is going to potentially happen very fast. And I want her to know what’s expected. I should have cross matches back sometime between 9:00 and 10:00.

Larry, Debbie's Husband: She’s excited and, and real hyper right now.

Debbie's Dad: I’ll call you when they find out for sure that the heart is a match. She loves life, she loves people. I hope this heart doesn’t change her personality.

Debbie: If you love your life, and you want to live, don’t sulk around and doom yourself. You have to believe you can beat these things. Hello? Hi, Vicky. OK, are you, why? Oh, you guys it's a perfect cross match. Oh, thank you. Oh, thank you so much. OK. She just said this heart is like super good and that the cross match is perfect. I can’t believe all the phone calls that are coming in. Oh my gosh. Does that mean surgery is starting at four? Dr. Adamson is shooting for around six in the morning.

Dr. Adamson: Hello, how are you? You know, we’ve come so far since I first saw you, you could barely breathe and walk around. You had the hepatitis C, we’re 29 years into this battle against heart disease. Wow.

Debbie: I don’t know what it feels like to feel normal. It's going to feel, will I feel my heart beating?

Dr. Adamson: Oh, you will.

Debbie: ‘Cause right now I don’t feel anything.

Dr. Adamson: It's decompressed now and it's not doing much of the work, but the new heart you will, that is one thing everybody says they feel. It is just, it really is an amazing change. [overtalking] All right, darling. Dr. Baradarian, go over and look at the heart. He’s the one that will determine whether this heart is good enough. Then he’ll bring it back so we can implant it.

Female: It's finally time.

Dr. Baradarain: We’re going to take the donor to the operating room and evaluate the heart first after we open the chest. And then we’ll cross clamp and take out the heart.

Dr. Adamson: Here is Debbie’s chest X-ray. Here’s the LVAD. This is her heart. This is where I’m going to be making the incision. She’s had four or five surgeries in the past, and so everything is very, very stuck. And that will cause massive bleeding.

Debbie: Oh, Lisa, what’s gonna happen? We’re going for it.

Debbie: I love you so much. This is it.

Dr. Adamson: I suspect given the ECHO and the age and this donor should be good. But maybe one in 10, you’ll think everything was fine, but then when you actually look at the heart, it’s not good. We’re just kind of waiting now for them to tell us if the heart is good or not. Then we’ll proceed. Once we, excuse me. Hello? All right Sammy, great, thanks. The heart is good and we are going to proceed. I’ve been doing it a long time now. But with each transplant it is a miracle. It really brings tears to your eyes. To feel we have the ability to give somebody such a gift. Can I have the [inaudible] line set up. May I begin? As soon as we drop the knife everything changes. Man. That is just really stuck.

Nurse: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Adamson: It's going to take us a long time to get her open. She is really stuck. The longer the heart is in the cooler the higher the chance of the patient dying as a result of surgery. Donation of organs helps 10 or 12 people immediately. Take people off of dialysis. To give someone who’s living a bed to chair existence, a chance to raise their family. To give new sight to the blind. To literally raise people from the dead by this gift of life. Four plus, two plus, one plus. OK.

Dr. Baradarain: Here’s the heart.

Dr. Adamson: Cardiotomy, sucker in the hole, stitch the SAM. Turn your LA vent up.

Surgeon: As soon as we take the cross clamp off, it's great to catch the heart beat, its first beat.

Dr. Adamson: We sew it in, take the cross clamp off the aorta and then the blood surges through the coronary arteries. The miracle is the process is seeing the heart begin to beat on it's own. You’re ventilating. OK, hold your lungs for a minute. Immediately when you come off the heart, lung machine the overarching issue is will this heart work? Clamps off. Did you see that beat. That’s saying I like it. Uh-huh. Uh-huh, I like it. I’ve done it hundreds of times and it is still almost a spiritual experience every time. It looks like a very good heart, Sammy. Call out to the family and tell them we’re off the heart-lung machine. And Debbie is on her own again.

Larry: Hello? That’s great, thank you. OK, bye. It's beating on its own. It's beating on its own.

Dr. Adamson: It's a bit overwhelming at times just the volume of blood that’s being lost. It's possible that she could have a problem. [inaudible] Trying to get the bleeding stopped to get over to the SICU. Got so much bleeding down there. It’s been a long day for everybody. I wish I could just come down and say everything was perfect and, and but it took us long time to get the bleeding stopped. Once we closed, the pressure in the pulmonary arteries doubled. And then right side of the heart didn’t look like it was working very well. And so we really didn’t know what it was. Every time we’d look at the ECHO, the heart initially was pretty sluggish. I wish that we wouldn’t have had this uncertainty. The main thing is, that darn pump is out. She has a normal heart that’s in. The heart appears to be getting a little bit stronger and I think these hearts generally tend to start out weak and then get stronger and stronger over the next few days. We’re going to move her over into the Intensive Care Unit. And we’re just going to watch, minute by minute, hour by hour.

Nurse: Debbie, your surgery is all over. It's Susanne, one of your nurses. You’re doing really well, Everything is OK.

Larry: I love you, baby. I love you. I didn’t know what to expect. She looks great.

Nurse: She does look good.

Larry: Amazing. She looks great.

Debbie: The day I got my heart I was feeling like my life was slipping out of my body, and from that moment on, I’ve been given a new life. I couldn’t get this heart in me fast enough. Larry and I, we’re doing things again that we never dreamed we’d be able to do. Go, go, go, go. [overtalking] Leila just started kindergarten and I was able to you know, hear the story about her first day. I got my new granddaughter in the water. Shelby, she’s not quite a year old. But I’m going to be there for her first birthday. There are so many things I’m going to experience now. I can’t be thankful enough to my donor, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that person. I know it's a sad thing, they had to lose their life, but I hope they’re in heaven and they can see all this. I feel like this heart is going to see a lot of things.