Transplant Institute Patient Stories
Nancy’s Story About Heart and Kidney Transplant Surgery
“These people just taught me how to live again.”
—Nancy, Age 57
When Nancy came to NYU Langone, she was in the advanced stages of heart failure. Her heart stopped more than a dozen times. Again and again, doctors were able to resuscitate her, but her heart was severely weakened.
“They thought they were going to lose me,” she says.
To save her life, Nancy first needed ECMO treatment, also known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Dr. Deane E. Smith, director of the Adult ECMO Program, performed this lifesaving procedure, which connected Nancy’s circulatory system with machines that took over the work of her heart and lungs.
Over the next few weeks, it became apparent that her heart would not recover enough to allow her to live without a permanent external device that would help it circulate blood through the body. Nancy, who also had kidney failure, resisted that treatment. She wanted a life free of devices and of limitations.
Nancy’s cardiologist Dr. Randal Goldberg, an expert in treating advanced heart failure, told her that a successful heart transplant and kidney transplant could give her back her health and her independence. Nancy agreed to be placed on the transplant waitlist. Within two weeks, she received the lifesaving organs in surgery led by Dr. Nader Moazami, surgical director of NYU Langone’s heart transplant program.
Three weeks later, Nancy was well enough to go home and start rebuilding strength with help from the team at the Joan and Joel Smilow Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation Center, part of Rusk Rehabilitation. A year after surgery, Nancy is back to doing the things she loves, like walking dogs and spending time with her friends, and is excited about her future prospects.
“I feel like they turned back the clock for me 18 years ago because that’s when I started having heart problems,” Nancy says. “These people just taught me how to live again.”
Maureen’s Story About Lung Transplant Surgery
“I was evaluated for a transplant on May 19, and by June 13 I had the transplant. Amazing.”
—Maureen, Age 61
When Maureen learned she needed a lung transplant, she was still trying to grasp how quickly her world had changed.
She wasn’t worried in February 2018, when her primary care doctor said her swollen fingertips could be a sign of a serious lung condition. But she took his advice and saw a pulmonologist, who diagnosed her with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Maureen felt blindsided. After all, she felt great and lived an active life, in part by keeping up with nine grandchildren.
The condition, which causes scarring of the lung tissue and reduces lung function, progressed rapidly. Within a couple of months, Maureen began to have serious trouble breathing. “I thought it was just a flare-up, but it kept getting worse and worse,” she says.
In April, she was hospitalized near her home in Port Jervis, New York. After a month, doctors told Maureen they had run out of treatment options and she needed a lung transplant. They recommended NYU Langone.
In May 2018, the Transplant Institute team evaluated Maureen for a right lung transplant and placed her on the organ waitlist. Just 25 days later, NYU Langone surgeons performed successful lung transplant surgery.
“I have no idea how long I would have lasted waiting for a lung, so I feel very blessed,” she says.
Maureen’s recovery has been made easier because her pulmonologists, Dr. Luis F. Angel and Dr. Melissa B. Lesko, are able to monitor her lung function and other vital signs remotely. Each day at home, Maureen breathes into a spirometer—a device that measures lung capacity—that is connected wirelessly to an app on her iPhone. The results are immediately sent to Dr. Angel and Dr. Lesko. The technology has meant far fewer daylong trips into Manhattan.
“It’s been so helpful,” Maureen says. “Going to the city is stressful for me and for my husband.”
Now, just over a year after her surgery, Maureen is feeling great again. She says she owes it all to the support she received from her husband and family and the Transplant Institute team. “I’m walking, shopping, and picking up the grandchildren. I’m back to normal, and I’m so happy—it’s a miracle.”
Charlie’s Story About Heart Transplant Surgery
“The entire Transplant Institute team has been magnificent. There’s a commitment that goes above and beyond from the entire staff, and each one of them has found the time to listen to my concerns.”
—Charlie, Age 64
By the time Charlie was put on the waitlist for a heart transplant in May 2017, he’d been living with heart failure for nearly a decade. When a pacemaker was no longer enough to help his heart, he received a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, in 2016.
Although the LVAD improved day-to-day life, Charlie wasn’t feeling as well as he had hoped, though he did his best to maintain a positive attitude. He came to accept the limitations and that he “was never going to be able to do what others do,” such as climbing stairs or even walking short distances without becoming short of breath.
Charlie and his doctors knew that a new heart could change his life dramatically. But because he was stable on the LVAD, his need was considered less urgent, meaning he was likely to spend longer on the transplant waitlist. Several other factors, including his blood type and physical size, could also increase the wait for a suitable donor beyond the typical two years. During that time, he would be vulnerable to complications that could eliminate transplant surgery as an option.
To speed the process of waiting for a transplant, Charlie agreed to receive a heart that was positive for hepatitis C, a curable virus. In February 2019, less than two years after Charlie was placed on the waitlist, Dr. Nader Moazami and Dr. Deane E. Smith implanted Charlie’s new heart. Over the next few weeks, he was treated with medication to clear the hepatitis C infection from his system.
Nearly a year after the transplant, Charlie has regained his optimism—and his stamina. He speaks triumphantly about conquering a slope at the entrance to NYU Langone Medical Center that used to leave him gasping for air. “Now, I go up it deliberately, at full speed, and I shoot with confidence through the door. I’m feeling better than I ever expected,” he says.