Meet our newest Team HeartBrother member, Jim Lang of Worcester, MA.
Jim is a writer and public speaker who was 52-years-old last October when he noticed his heart racing and beating irregularly. He drove himself to the ER and was eventually diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle usually caused by a virus.
“After four days at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester, things were only getting worse,” Jim remembers. “The myocarditis was spreading throughout my heart. At midnight, they put me into an ambulance to Boston.”
At Tufts Medical Center, Jim received a balloon pump and ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) surgery. But his heart continued to deteriorate, and finally his doctors had to implant VADs (ventricular assistive devices) in both sides of his heart.
“Then I got pneumonia. My heart was beating about 200 times a minute.”
Doctors put him into a coma for a week.
“When I woke up, they told me that I needed a new heart.”
Jim only had to wait a couple of weeks for his transplant, but during the surgery he suffered a stroke.
“I couldn’t speak. My wife Anne would come to my room with flashcards. I had to learn to speak again.”
Anne stayed by Jim’s side through it all and for about 30 days she stayed at the HeartBrothers House, less than a mile from Tufts.
“The HeartBrothers House was awesome,” Anne said. “You couldn’t ask for a better location. I even decorated the apartment for Christmas.”
The Lang’s five children visited the HeartBrothers House, sometimes staying there with Anne.
“We had family meals there. It was so nice to have a place where we could be together.”
After recovering from the transplant and stroke, Jim came home. Slowly, with the support of doctors, physical and speech therapists, and his family, he has regained his strength.
So, what’s his advice to other heart failure and transfer patients?
“No matter how bad things look, there is hope that they’ll improve. There was a point before I went into surgery when I thought to myself, ‘Whatever happens is fine, I don’t care anymore.’ But then I thought about Anne and my kids, my siblings and the hundreds of people who sent me cards, supporting me. I knew I wasn’t ready to go yet.”
On a recent day, Jim and Anne played nine holes of golf together. “There was a time when I thought I would never do that again.” He’s also back writing and speaking. “I gave a keynote address at a conference and had to stand up for 45 minutes talking to people.”
The Langs generously donated $5,000 to the HeartBrothers and Jim is looking forward to the time when he can visit heart transplant patients in the hospital and share his story - and his hope.