Heart Transplant Recipients Celebrate Life at 14th Annual Heart to
The women, men
and children attending the 14th annual Emory Heart to Heart celebration
this Sunday have different backgrounds and different stories but
all have something in common that has given them hope for a new, healthier
future. They have either received heart transplants at Emory University
Hospital (EUH) or Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), or they are
on the waiting list for a new heart.
"All of us who have gone
through this feel as though we are in a special club," says Stephen
Demko, 53, of Atlanta, who found himself part of this "club" suddenly
and unexpectedly. Demko felt his heart beating rapidly one day and made
an appointment with his internist for what he assumed was probably a
minor problem. However, his doctor recognized that something was terribly
wrong Demko's heart was rapidly deteriorating and no one knew why.
A biopsy finally provided
the answer: Stephen's heart muscle was being destroyed by giant cell
myocarditis, a rare disorder of unknown origin. Transferred to EUH in
cardiogenic shock, Stephen was soon placed on a biventricular assist
device a pump that helped his own heart function until a new, healthy
heart could be found and transplanted.
"The performance of my heart
had plummeted from 40 percent to 10 percent in five days," says Demko,
a mathematician and businessman. "The machine bought me time until they
could find me a heart." He received his new heart on October 24th, 2000
and went home seven days later. Today, Stephen says, he feels healthy
Missy Garrett, of Decatur,
fought against cardiomyopathy, a chronic disorder of the heart muscle,
since the age of 15. In l987, at age 33, she developed congestive heart
failure and an irregular heart rhythm. The next year she was revived
from cardiac arrest four times. Referred to Emory's Center for Heart
Failure Therapy, Missy was admitted to EUH in the fall of 2000 to await
her only hope for life the heart transplant that became a reality
in March of 2001.
"When I woke up from surgery,
I knew I had a new heart. It wasn't a struggle any more," Missy says.
For the first time in 25 years, she can now drive, run and play with
her young nieces and nephews.
Lester Crowell's heart transplant
not only saved his life it transformed it. Crowell's family history
is littered with tragic tales of relatives who died young from a genetic
heart disease, a deadly form of cardiomyopathy.
"Ever since I was 13, it
was a problem for me. I could never do anything physical, never sustain
any sort of exercise," Crowell, 43 of Marietta, recalls. Three years
ago, that changed when he received his new heart at Emory. "I've been
working seven days a week, opening my new 13,000 square foot hair salon
spa. I go bowling. I do all sorts of things I never could do before,"
he says. "I feel good and I'm very grateful to have had this opportunity
to live and be active and healthy."
Over a hundred men, women
and children will celebrate life this Sunday at the Heart to Heart event,
which will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on February 10th at the Woodruff
Health Sciences Building on the Emory University campus. "The Heart
to Heart celebration is a fun way for those of us who have transplants
to get together and share our experiences. We are all so thankful for
our new hearts and to the care and expertise we received at Emory,"
Stephen Demko says.
Emory Hospitals include Emory
University Hospital, a 587-bed hospital located on the Emory University
campus in northeast Atlanta, Emory Crawford Long Hospital, a 583-bed,
community-based hospital in midtown and Wesley Woods Geriatric Hospital,
a 100-bed hospital located on the Emory campus.
Emory Hospitals are components
of EMORY HEALTHCARE, the most comprehensive health care system in Atlanta.
Other components of EMORY HEALTHCARE are: The Emory Clinic, the Emory
Children's Center, the jointly owned Emory-Adventist Hospital, and EHCA,
LLC, a limited liability company created in collaboration with HCA Healthcare.
Editor's Note: Mr. Demko,
Mr. Lowell and Ms. Garrett will be available for interviews, at the
Heart to Heart event on Sunday.