Living Donation

Jeff Carpenter: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Jeff Carpenter

The Challenge: Multiple Heart Attacks and Heart Failure

Jeff Carpenter knew he had a family history of heart disease and had his first heart attack at the age of 46.

“I was really surprised that I had a heart attack,” Jeff says. “I listened to my doctors and made some lifestyle changes. I stopped eating fast food, saw a nutritionist, and began eating healthier.”

Jeff enjoyed better health for a few years, but three more heart attacks followed. Throughout that time, he received stents to open up blocked arteries and a pacemaker-defibrillator to help manage his heart's rhythm.

The Path to the UPMC Heart Transplant Program

After his fourth heart attack, a physician friend of Jeff's suggested he seek a second opinion at UPMC. He underwent tests and learned he had congestive heart failure, a condition where the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.

Jeff's doctor brought up the possibility of a heart assist device, or even a transplant down the road. Doctors continued to monitor his condition, and in February 2013, Jeff joined the heart transplant waiting list. He knew that he might have a long wait—Jeff was not as sick as others, and his place on the list was low.

In August of that year, a fifth heart attack sent Jeff into cardiac arrest. When paramedics arrived, Jeff was not breathing; fortunately, they revived him and flew him to UPMC Presbyterian. Jeff’s condition stabilized for a brief time, but two days after he was admitted, he took a turn for the worse. Doctors advised his wife to call their family, as they did not think Jeff would make it through the night.

The Solution: a Ventricular Assist Device and Heart Transplant

Jeff held on and slowly but surely, his condition improved. Once he stabilized, Jeff received a ventricular assist device (VAD) to help his heart function as he recovered. By October 2013, Jeff’s doctors determined him to be strong enough for transplantation, and he rejoined the transplant waiting list.

On November 11, 2013, Jeff received his new heart. He was released from the hospital within two weeks and began recovering at home with very few setbacks.

“I feel as good now as I did when I was 40 years old,” Jeff says. “I can go for a two-mile walk with no problems.”

He is also very thankful for the care he received at UPMC.

“The doctors, nurses, staff,—the entire team—they are all so caring and compassionate. I can’t say enough good things about them,” he says.

Since his transplant, Jeff has returned to a fairly normal lifestyle. He was cleared to return to work part time around Christmas 2013, and is close to returning to full time now. He is enjoying spending time with his wife and three children.

Jeff’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.

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