By: Pat Sullivan (Co-Founder)
March 25, 2019
I am a heart transplant recipient who is currently 6+ years away from my “Miracle Day.” Nov 21, 2022, is the day that will mark the ten year anniversary of my heart transplant.
My transplant journey has been a roller coaster. The transplant itself was fairly routine. But my LVAD journey before it was riddled with difficulties and my post-transplant experience has also been a challenging one.
But I am here! Still alive after my latest complication.
Six months post-transplant, I was doing very poorly. It turned out to be Aspergillosis–a mold infection of my lungs–that very nearly did me in. I remember Helen Boucher, MD (Heart Transplant and VAD Infectious Diseases Program Director at Tufts Medical Center) telling me that transplant recipients can very rapidly have a bronchial infection turn into severe pneumonia due to the immunosuppression (anti-rejection medications) we take. For years she has told me this every time I caught a cold or had a cough. Most times I would simply have my primary care doctor monitor me and prescribe my medications. But, as the years have passed, I have become much more susceptible to infections and, even more so, pneumonia.
This past summer (2018), an infection exploded into a life-threatening event involving a two-month stay in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTU/ICU) at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. To save my life, they had to perform a tracheotomy, intubate me, force me into a coma, and add a feeding tube for me to eat/drink for most of my stay.
I am writing this blog post to let every transplant recipient know that this can happen to you if you are immunosuppressed. It is common for us, after several years post-transplant, to feel like normal people and to not stay diligent in our lives. I urge all of you:
Get flu shots
Get pneumonia shots
Avoid places where the flu is most present (malls, churches, airplanes, schools, concerts, sporting events)
Pay attention to a runny nose or cough or fever
Wash all produce with clinician-approved wash
While our loved ones can fight off a seemingly simple cold, our bodies do not have the same weapons. We cannot fight as well as they do. Keep your distance if a loved one has a cold. Or wear a mask and gloves when tending to them–as they have done so many times for you.
The bottom line: Do NOT let complacency or ‘feeling well’ keep you from performing daily diligence. It can cost you your life!
Pat Sullivan Co-Founding Survivor