Heart transplant patient receives a gift that keeps giving
Last year, on her 40th birthday, Melody Hickman McIntosh was barely “holding on to life.” She was placed on life support, her breathing supported only by a ventilator, after she suffered a massive heart attack. She laid in a coma for almost a month at a hospital near her Great Lakes, Ill., home.
“I was on 24-hour dialysis; everything had shut down. The health care team at the hospital told my husband, Arthur, to gather the family and prepare to say ‘goodbye,’” says Hickman McIntosh.
On a life vest and defibrillator, Hickman McIntosh was not ready to say “goodbye,” but she did need more advanced care than what her hospital could provide. She was transported to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where doctors determined that she required the implantation of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to support her weakened heart.
“Melody was presented in advanced heart failure, so we implanted an LVAD, which is a bridge to heart transplantation,” says Dr. Geetha Bhat, medical director of the Center for Heart Transplant and Assist Devices at Advocate Christ Medical Center.
In December 2012, Hickman McIntosh was placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) heart transplant list awaiting a donor.
“I was like any other woman. I was healthy and living life to the fullest,” says Hickman McIntosh. “My husband and I were excited about starting a family.”
Hickman McInstosh was on the LVAD for nearly a year when another unexpected life interruption took place – a hopeful one, this time. And again it happened on Melody’s birthday—her 41st.
“In a million years, who dies on their birthday, and then a year later receives a heart transplant on their birthday? I can’t explain it,” muses Hickman McIntosh. “All I know is that prayers do get answered. This is the best birthday gift ever!”
Hickman McIntosh is now on a more personal journey. “I’m so thankful, so much so I want to do something for someone else, because someone gave me a second chance at life,” she says. “I’m taking good care of my new heart and obeying the doctor’s orders.”
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