Transplant Clinician

It all started when Brett was a sophomore in high school. Brett was in great shape, diligently going to the gym and preparing to try out for the upcoming high school baseball season. Life was as typical as it can be for any sophomore in high school.

In mid December 2013, he and his father were walking to AutoZone for a car part. Brett’s chest felt tight and he could not breath. Little did he know it was because his heart was increasingly enlarged due to an undiagnosed case of dilated cardiomyopathy. His parents were becoming very concerned. The first week of winter break he went to the hospital and staff noticed his resting heart rate was 148 beats per minute. He was taken to x-ray and saw that his heart was 3 times the size that a normal heart should be. There was an ambulance that transported him to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. When his wheelchair had gotten him to the CVICU he was surrounded by staff putting in IV’s, prepping medication to help him, someone starting an echocardiogram, and finally another putting leads on his head. He described the on flux of medical personal as like a swarm of bees surrounding him. Within 30 minutes of arrival they began discussing the possibility of a heart transplant with him and his family. This was the 19th of December. A week later, he was still inpatient and progressively getting worse. This is when physicians started talking to him about putting in a Ventricular Assist Device or an artificial heart. They said this could help his heart rest and possibly even heal his heart. On December 31st they put in the device (a Heartmate) to help his left ventricle.

This helped give his heart a break because it was under so much stress. Doctors knew that because his heart was in such serious condition, that even with the VAD he would still eventually need a transplant. He asked if he could go home and be on the VAD. He felt like the staff had done an excellent job educating him and he wanted to be the first pediatric patient in Phoenix to be discharged on an LVAD. They agreed and because PCH is a standalone pediatric hospital, they worked in partnership with the Mayo Clinic of Phoenix to follow outpatient care for Brett and his LVAD from home. He went from January to the end of March at home successfully on his LVAD. At this time, he really focused on physical therapy and recovery. He did light weight training and lots of walking to get his body in the best shape possible for transplant.

In March, Brett and his family received “the call” for his gift of life. His transplant nurse told him to be ready and to the hospital at 4 am. He admits being nervous and having his mind race at all the possibilities. When he got his chlorhexidine wipes and his final consent for surgery is when Brett took 15 minutes to pause and make sure it was in fact the right decision. Quite a decision for a sixteen-year-old, but his answer was clear. As soon as he signed consent, he was wheeled back for anesthesia and surgery and the rest is history.

Brett just had his yearly checkup with Mayo Clinic in Phoenix this past Monday. They had him doing a stress test in August and he is due for an angiogram next year. He is very healthy today.

Today Brett’s greatest achievement is going through college and he looks forward to receiving his bachelor’s degree next year. He is currently finishing up an internship with Donor Network Arizona. He very much looks forward to helping other pediatric transplant recipients from a social work and a first-person perspective. His philosophy is to help guide and not lecture so that patients come up with the resilience and guide themselves with positive knowledge to healing.