One of the long-term concerns post heart transplant is CAD. (Coronary artery disease). As the new heart is no longer attached to any nerves there would be no angina, no indication there is a problem. The disease which destroyed E’s original heart returns and attacks the transplanted heart in 25% of the patients. There could be kidney disease or many other complications from taking harsh anti rejection drugs and steroids for sixteen years. We packed all these worries with us in our suitcases as we headed off to the Transplant Centre for a thorough exam by the team.
Tests included but were not limited to one where they went in through his leg and took four pieces (small) from his heart (one from each chamber) to biopsy. It took the whole day at the cath lab. E had not been so thoroughly tested since his first anniversary. The guy beside us who went in first, was five years post transplant. His arteries were too blocked. They couldn’t get the needle in to put the dye for the angiogram. Then they took E.
The results? There is no evidence that E is a sixty year old man with a transplanted heart. His arteries, his heart, blood work, kidney function, and weight are that of a fit forty-year old. He is a text-book walking example of the success of solid organ transplant.The longest surviving patient at this point out of our clinic is 30 years and she is still going strong. They see no reason what so ever, at this point to expect any different outcome for E… He will probably out live us all.
We celebrated with a weekend visiting E’s oldest friend, two hours south of our transplant clinic. For two nights we went to a nearby winery and sat in an outdoor amphitheatre watching Mark Knopfler in concert. We sat on a blanket, with clears skies, wine, cheese, pate and great music. Just before the concert flocks of birds filled the sky behind the stage. Then, multi coloured hot air balloons began to float from right to left. We suspected a unicorn might be next to pass before us. It was magical.
We met with the team at the clinic the morning after the testing to learn the results. The nurse asked E all of the customary questions to anticipate any problems for the Doctor. Are you depressed? Have you started smoking? Do you drink?
E answered honestly … No, No and yes but just socially.
Next the Doctor came in. He is the head of the team and the man we credit with saving E’s life.. With his head down he scanned E’s answers to the questionnaire laying on the desk before him, he said “No, you sure don’t sound depressed. No smoking, good..” Then Dr. Andy looked up at E and smiled “It says here you drink but only socially? ” E laughed and said “living on the island, it is VERY social!”
“good for you”