• Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series of articles following a heart transplant journey. Follow the series in Saturday’s editions of The Transcript.
Over the last several months, I have been gone for matters of the heart — quite literally.
In November 2014, my husband was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy after a virus attacked his heart earlier that year. Last August, his condition worsened into congestive heart failure and he was told he would need a transplant. Thus started our eight-month saga to get him put on the national heart transplant list.
We saw lots of specialists, and he had lots of bloodwork, X-rays and procedures. The experience was highly challenging, as his heart gradually started pumping less and less, and he felt miserable most of the time.
Meanwhile, I had to juggle being a caregiver, taking care of our toddler, working full time and taking my husband to medical appointments, mostly in Oklahoma City.
It was exhausting and emotionally tolling, and I kept praying that he would get a new heart quickly, because I couldn’t last much longer.
On the Friday before Easter, my husband went into the hospital to receive his first IV infusion of antibodies, due to his body’s deficiency. We thought he’d be released the following Monday but were surprised when we learned hospital staff was keeping him until transplant. He officially got listed two days later and was moved up to Stage 2 the next day.
He had to be bedbound until transplant, causing him discomfort and making him highly irritable. It was difficult to keep him in a good head space and keep my own emotions in check.
I was at work that week, checking in with Brandon mostly by phone. I was just in wait mode.
Then came the day when I got the call. It was April 30, and Brandon had spent the previous day on hold on the list. That morning, his hold was removed.
At work, we had an early meeting for reporters at The Transcript. During the meeting, I had nothing to report from my beat. I had attended one court item that day, and no big cases were scheduled that week.
That morning, I had commented on my husband’s Facebook page that hopefully the transplant surgery would happen on a sunny day. Bad storms were predicted to hit the metro area later.
Around noon, I got a call saying my husband had a heart donor that looked like a great match, and I spent the rest of the afternoon excitedly informing everyone of the news. Plus, I had to arrange for someone to watch our toddler.
My husband had been active on the list for only six days before finding an organ donor match. After the doctor saw the heart and approved it, the surgery was approved to go ahead as scheduled.
That night, I packed my car and headed out into the now rainy weather, and it picked up the closer I got to the hospital. The rain poured down so hard it was difficult to see the lines on the highway, and I was thankful when I pulled off toward the hospital.
His family, friends and I — each coming from different areas — arrived and gathered together. The surgery was scheduled to start early the next morning, so some of us tried to sleep, but it was difficult due to anticipation and uncomfortable furniture.
Before he went back for surgery, we gathered around him in his ICU room, then followed him downstairs. We went to the large, chilly surgery waiting room as he was wheeled back.
We waited uncomfortably in the early morning for about four or five hours before the surgery was finished, with occasional updates. Afterward, we were told everything went great and there were no complications to report.
We all felt tremendous relief and were thankful that God provided a new heart for him, but we knew that this was only the beginning of a long road to full recovery.
He spent the next three weeks in the hospital recovering, building his muscles back up and learning about his new medications and necessary diet changes and safety measures.
A little over a month after being admitted, he was discharged. I was so glad to have him back home, as was our 3-year-old. Now a new challenge began at home.