For the media

Nursing student receives heart transplant — and support

By The Health News Team | July 12, 2023
Austin Nabors and Dr Hirsch Mehta at Sharp Memorial Hospital

Dr. Hirsch Mehta and Austin Nabors.

Early this year, Austin Nabors, age 28, experienced a gurgling sensation in his lungs and chest. He then began coughing up what looked like pink froth.

Austin was hopeful his symptoms would disappear. However, they persisted for more than two weeks and worsened to the point an ambulance had to be called. Austin was taken by paramedics to Tri-City Medical Center.

“I was scared,” Austin says. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe.”

Austin was experiencing cardiogenic shock, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood. He was transferred to Sharp Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department, where Sharp team members resuscitated him, using multiple cardiac medications and temporary mechanical support.

The care providers also ran a variety of exams, including a pulmonary function test to examine how well Austin’s lungs were functioning. Austin stayed at Sharp Memorial for four days, during which caregivers informed him that he would need to consider a heart transplant if his condition did not improve.

Unfortunately, within two weeks of returning home, Austin’s pulse escalated, and his blood pressure declined. “I went back to Sharp Memorial’s emergency department,” he says. “While getting examined, I knew I needed a heart transplant.”

Waiting for a heart — and his future to begin

No one could be certain when Austin would receive a new heart. Once on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) heart transplant waiting list, various factors, such as a person’s condition and the number of available donors in the area, determine the waiting time.

Austin, who was in the midst of completing a nursing program at Palomar College prior to his hospital admission, decided to take advantage of his time at Sharp Memorial. By observing his cardiac nurses during his hospital stay, he was able to complete his clinical hours.

“From a young age, I wanted to help others,” Austin says. “That’s what set me on my nursing path. With the help of my nurses and doctors, I was able to continue with my nursing program.”

A new heart and career

In early June — just one day before receiving his heart transplant — Austin celebrated the completion of his nursing program during a pinning ceremony at Sharp Memorial. His loved ones, professors and Sharp caregivers, such as Geri Robles, a nurse practitioner at Sharp Memorial, attended the event. His cardiologist, Dr. Hirsch Mehta, who is with Sharp Community Medical Group and affiliated with Sharp Memorial, also came to celebrate.

“Austin is a tremendously driven young man who’s been a delight to work with,” says Dr. Mehta. “I’m happy he was able to share this special moment with his colleagues and family.”

Since receiving the heart transplant, which was performed by Dr. Karl Limmer, a Sharp Community Medical Group board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon who is also affiliated with Sharp Memorial, Austin has continued to recover. He’s excited, he says, to start working as a nurse.

Austin Nabors at Sharp Memorial Hospital

Austin Nabors at Sharp Memorial Hospital.

“My condition has vastly improved, and I can’t thank Sharp enough,” Austin says. “My caregivers were so caring and knowledgeable, helping me trust them throughout my heart transplant journey.”

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For the news media: To talk with Dr. Mehta about this story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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