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    Susan - New Heart, New Life

    Susan -
    Susan - New Heart, New Life

    Susan has been on the cusp of modern medicine her whole life. Having been born with a heart defect, she is no stranger to heart conditions.

    In 1959, Susan was born with an interatrial septal defect, also known as a hole in the heart. When Susan was only 2 years old, she had open heart surgery to repair her heart. The procedure, which was still very new, was performed by the famous pioneering heart surgeon, Denton A. Cooley, M.D. The hole was surgically closed and Susan went on to have a happy, healthy and normal childhood.

    It wasn’t until Susan was in her late 20s that her heart started having problems – problems that were completely unrelated to her heart condition as a child.

    In June of 1989, Susan was offered a traveling nurse assignment. Excited about the opportunity to travel, she quit her job and canceled her medical insurance. A few months into her assignment, she noticed that something wasn’t quite right.

    "I felt bad and knew something was wrong," she said. "I had no energy and within a few months I had to plan my day out carefully to compensate for my energy loss."

    By early October, Susan had to leave her traveling nurse assignment early and go home to live with her parents in Sacramento.

    "I remember the day I had to do something about my condition," she said. "I had spilled orange juice on the floor and was unable to clean it up."

    Susan didn’t have health insurance at the time so her mother took her to see her father who was a physician in Lodi. Her father’s friend, who was an internist, performed a few tests and announced the grim news that Susan was going to die.

    Susan had an enlarged heart due to cardiomyopathy, probably from a virus that attacked her heart. The infection left her heart enlarged and unable to efficiently pump blood through her body.

    A few days after the grim diagnosis, Susan’s father came home and announced that she was not going to die. She was going to Sutter for a heart transplant.

    The day after Thanksgiving, Susan had to have a few tests in the cath lab at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento to further diagnose her eligibility for a transplant. Her heart was so weak that she recalls this day being the scariest of her life.

    "I wanted to jump out of the room and run," Susan said. "My heart was so fragile and weak."

    Cardiologist David Woodruff, M.D., performed her catheterization. After the procedure, she ended up in the ICU to recover. In less than a day she was placed on the transplant list.

    Susan waited in the hospital several months before she received a new heart.

    "I was so ready for a new heart," she said. "I was very uncomfortable from the fluid buildup in my abdomen and sick of having no energy."

    The day before Christmas Eve, December 23, Susan received the news that they had found a donor. Susan would be the eighth patient in the program to have a heart transplant, making her once again a part of medical history.

    A very intriguing coincidence also presented itself that day. Cardiovascular surgeon, Michael Ingram, M.D., performed Susan’s heart transplant surgery. Dr. Ingram studied under Susan’s previous surgeon Dr. Cooley. After the surgery was complete, Dr. Ingram gave Dr. Cooley a call letting him know that the hole he repaired in her heart more than 30 years ago was still in excellent shape.

    One week before Susan’s birthday, January 11, she was released from the hospital. The road to recovery went smoothly and in approximately two-and-a-half months she had her full strength back.

    Now, almost 20 years later, Susan feels wonderful. She is a registered nurse and enjoys traveling and snow skiing. She is still with Sutter and is currently seeing cardiologist John Chin, M.D.

    "Everyday is a challenge for me, but I have come to grips with it. I have had a fulfilled life because of Sutter," Susan said.


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