Ken never knew he had any heart problems. He was a professional mover and worked very hard and many long days. He was a pastor along with holding a full-time job.
After returning from a trip to Florida, he was very sick. We thought it was the flu or food poisoning. The doctor thought it might be food poisoning also. But by the next day he lost control of his bladder, and the doctor said to take him to the emergency room. There, they did blood work and checked him over and told us soon afterwards that he had had a heart attack and had congestive heart failure. We were shocked! They admitted him and did more tests. From there, they sent him to St. Joseph’s for a catheterization.
The results of the catheterization were bad. In fact, the doctor told the family that it was “horrible.” They admitted him then and kept him for five days running all kinds of tests. At first they told us it was too bad to even do bypass surgery. But by the end of the week, they had decided to try bypass surgery, for which we were very thankful because we knew he did not have a chance otherwise. On April 18, he underwent triple bypass surgery. The surgeon was pleased with the results but told us his heart was in very bad condition. They hoped that over the next three months his heart would begin to respond to the bypasses and improve.
He stayed in the hospital for 10 days and was sent home on a Primacor drip, which he needed to stay alive. This medicine causes the blood vessels to become larger and makes it easier for his heart to pump. He had an ejection fraction of only 5%, meaning that his heart was only functioning at an extremely low and dangerous rate. A normal person functions at about 65%. After the surgery, he retained over 50 lbs. of fluid. It was hard for him even to walk. He could not sleep well at night because he could not lie flat without the overwhelming sensation of suffocating. But otherwise, he did pretty well until after six days, when he collapsed. Thank God he was found by his wife in time for her to call 911. They took him back to the hospital.
There in the ER, he had 2 more life-threatening attacks of what we later learned to be ventricular tachycardias, or “v-tachs” as they are commonly called, in which his heart rate went up so high that he would lose consciousness. One of the nurses told us that most people do not survive these attacks. The brain does not receive oxygen during one of these attacks.
He was transferred back to St. Joseph’s from Eastside Medical Center. Once at St. Joseph’s again, he had another v-tach with his heart rate going over 250! They worked very diligently with him and managed to get him pretty stable with medication.
At first we were told that they would have to implant a defibrillator. This would shock his heart any time he needed it. But the doctors decided it would be cruel to give him a defibrillator because it would shock him continually. They told us there was no other choice than to have a heart transplant. Without a new heart, he would probably not live two months.
On May 20 he was put on the heart transplant waiting list. After two weeks they decided he needed a balloon pump to help his heart beat better. Then in only one more week, a new heart became available! Those were very exciting yet anxious hours, but he came through very well and has done great ever since.
We thank the doctors involved for their expert work. But ultimately, we believe all praise goes to God for all He did during the whole ordeal. We are so very very thankful!
We also thank St. Joseph’s for the excellent care he received and the wonderful nurses that attended him. We have a real appreciation for CICU and CVICU nurses.
He has to return to the hospital every week for 8 weeks to have biopsies done to make sure his body is not rejecting the new heart, then every other week for another 8 weeks, and then once a month the rest of the year until June, 2009. So far he is on target and doing great – for which we thank God!
The aftercare is very expensive with the hospital and doctor visits, medication, and cardiac rehab. That is why this site has been set up through Georgia Transplant Foundation. We are doing fundraising through them. They will match dollar for dollar up to $10,000 for a year.
Ken obviously has been out of work since it first happened and will be unable to work for some time. Thank you for your prayers and any donation you can make. They will be greatly appreciated. May God richly bless you.