Heart and Vascular Institute Patient Stories

Every day, our heart and vascular health care team makes a difference in the lives of our patients. From providing routine testing in our outpatient offices, to assisting in critical procedures, guiding complex surgeries, providing rehabilitation services, and supporting patients in their recovery — we're there every step of the way.

Here are some examples of how that care can have a positive impact in the lives of our patients.

(Note: These patients' treatments and results may not be representative of all similar cases.)

Birdie Dally


As an active member of her church and grandmother of four, Birdie Dally was used to keeping busy. One day, Birdie noticed that she was having problems breathing while singing at church.

After a heart catheterization and stress test, she was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse and underwent minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery for valve repair.

Now Birdie is back to most normal activities and playing basketball with her grandchildren just months after her surgery. She encourages others who might have mitral valve prolapse to not ignore their symptoms and follow up with their doctor before their condition worsens.

» Read Birdie's story

Debbie DiStefano


Debbie DiStefano had been feeling worse and worse following her mitral valve prolapse diagnosis. In 2012, she found out her valve was indeed leaking which was causing her to feel more and more sick.

In an effort to improve her quality of life, Debbie underwent minimally invasive surgery for valve replacement. She wanted to enjoy her time spent working on her family-owned business and taking care of her grandchildren.

Today, just months after her surgery, Debbie feels better than ever and credits her doctor, Vinay Badhwar, MD to restoring her health.

» Read Debbie's story

Annette Amendola

Annette Amendola

Annette Amendola has a lot of experience recognizing signs and symptoms of a more serious heart problem. She is trained as a critical care nurse, and she also has experienced a lot of loss of people in her life related to heart conditions.

Under the treatment of her Heart and Vascular Institute cardiologist, Annette received her correct diagnosis and started a plan that has led her to riding a bike again and being able to attend her daughter’s wedding.

“If your physical complaints aren’t being acknowledged, seek second opinions,” said Annette. “When it comes to your heart, don’t be complacent.”

» Read Annette's story

Julia Feitner

Julia Feitner

After Julia Feitner's pregnancy, she become more and more fatigued during exercise.

Finally diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH) after seeing a variety of specialists, she began a clinical trial of a new PH treatment at UPMC.

Now Julia feels she has a better quality of life.

» Read Julia's story

Amanda Goehring
Amanda Goehring

The virus that attacked Amanda Goehring's heart landed the then 23-year-old hairdresser in the hospital, weak and close to death.

While on an artificial heart pump and waiting for a heart transplant, her heart recovered to such an extent that she was able to avoid transplantation.

Amanda's heart pump was eventually removed, and she has since married and become a mother.

» Read Amanda's story

 Heart Transplant Patient Stories

Ed Thompson

Matt Thompson wrote a touching account of his father, Ed Thompson. Mr. Thompson received a heart transplant at UPMC in 2009 that saved his life after a series of heart problems including multiple heart attacks, bypass surgeries, and stents that damaged his heart.

Four years after his heart transplant, and more than a year after his kidney transplant, Ed Thompson is still going strong and enjoying life with his children and grandchildren, who are happy to have “Pappy” in their lives.

Mary Ann Wahl

Mary Ann, a dietitian at UPMC Presbyterian had a life-changing heart transplant. Previously, Mary Ann Wahl’s heart condition, restrictive cardiomyopathy, prevented her from completing ordinary tasks and being able to take care of her daughter, Katy.

Restrictive cardiomyopathy is a disorder in which the heart chambers are unable to fill properly with blood because of stiffness in the heart. Heart transplantation becomes the only effective surgery if the condition worsens because heart failure occurs.

After her recovery period, Mary Ann felt great, began walking four miles a day, and made plans with her family including taking an active part in Katy’s school and going to Disney World. Mary Ann says her transplant has given her important insights to share with patients, especially those awaiting heart transplants.

» Read Mary Ann's story.

Ben Collins

At only 19, Ben Collins, a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a disease that weakens and enlarges the heart muscle.

Just over two years after surgery to treat ventricular tachycardia, a condition that resulted in his heart racing at dangerously high rates, Ben began experiencing loss of peripheral vision. He found out he would need a heart transplant.

Having watched his brother go through the transplant experience as well, Ben knew what to expect, which relieved some of the stress and anxiety. Since his transplant, Ben has returned to good health. He has taken up running and has participated in many races, including the Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race and a quarter of the Baltimore Marathon.

» Read Ben's story.


Find out more about heart and lung transplantation at UPMC.

Note: These patients' treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.

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