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Living Donation

Heart Transplant Patient Stories

Our patient stories profile those who have had heart transplants at UPMC. Although everyone’s care experience is unique, we hope that sharing these stories will help prospective patients and their families better understand these procedures and their potential impact on patients’ lives.

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

Laura Baker

Laura Baker

Laura Baker lived with heart muscle disease for 20 years. When her health took a dramatic turn for the worse in 2014, she learned she needed a heart transplant.

As a busy mom of three, Laura hoped to stay at home with her children until her transplant instead of living in a hospital during the wait. She looked for an experienced transplant center that could help her do so, and her search led her to the UPMC Heart Transplant Program.

» Read Laura's story.

Jeff Carpenter
Jeff Carpenter

Jeff Carpenter was on the heart transplant list when his fifth heart attack sent him into cardiac arrest and he was flown by paramedics to UPMC Presbyterian. There, doctors stabilized Jeff and implanted a ventricular assist device (VAD) to help him recover enough to undergo a transplant.

Jeff got a new heart in November 2013 and is enjoying life with his family.

» Read Jeff's story.

Ben Collins

Ben Collins

In 1995, Ben Collins, a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh, noticed that he was having increasing difficulty going up a flight or two of stairs at the Cathedral of Learning.

After a thorough evaluation, doctors discovered Ben had ventricular tachycardia, a condition that resulted in his heart racing at dangerously high rates.

Since his transplant, Ben has recovered nicely and taken up running, and participated in many races.

» Read Ben's story.

Phyllis Esau
Phyllis Esau

Shortly after undergoing chemotherapy to successfully fight breast cancer, Phyllis began noticing that it was hard for her to carry things. She also had shortness of breath, and was tired. She was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, but her heart was in good enough condition to continue with her life normally while getting regular checkups from her cardiologist.

Over time, though, Phyllis's heart continued to weaken and it was determined that she would need a heart transplant.

» Read Phyllis' story.

Paul Jewell
Paul Jewell

Paul Jewell was just 36 years old when he learned he had an enlarged heart and irregular heart rhythm. He managed his condition with medication for nearly 10 years, but in 1993, he developed severe congestive heart failure.

Paul received a ventricular assist device, or VAD, and spent five months in the hospital before undergoing a heart transplant. Today, he and his wife live in Erie and he takes every opportunity to spread the word about the importance of organ donation.

» Read Paul's story.

Tom Meshanko
Tom Meshanko

In 1997, Tom Meshanko experienced some chest soreness and tingling in his left arm.

Knowing his family had a history of heart disease, he went to see his doctors at UPMC Shadyside right away. Doctors told him he’d had a heart attack and his heart had suffered massive damage.

Since his transplant, Tom has remained active, participating in the Transplant Games of America, and even took a hot air balloon ride.

» Read Tom's story.

Andrea McConaughy
Andrea McConaughy

Andrea McConaughy learned she had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a type of heart muscle disease, as a teenager. By her mid-20s, Andrea’s heart had become so weak that she needed a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, to keep her alive.

Andrea spent six months in the hospital before receiving a heart transplant. She now lives in North Carolina with her family and will celebrate the 20th anniversary of her transplant this year.

» Read Andrea's story.

Tom Piccione
Tom Piccione

Tom Piccione, a judge and father of five, lived with advanced heart disease for years before receiving a heart transplant at UPMC in 2014. His daughter, UPMC cardiologist Beth Piccione, MD, chose to study cardiology to help her dad and has been by his side every step of the way.

Today, Tom is healthy and enjoying life with his family, including nine grandchildren. Ever grateful to his donor, Tom hopes his experience will inspire others to consider organ donation.

» Read Tom's story.

Phil Rostek
Phil Rostek

When Phil Rostek arrived at UPMC Presbyterian with a failing heart, he felt like he was right where he needed to be. He’d always loved Oakland, and his confident, compassionate doctors put him at instantly at ease.

Phil underwent a heart transplant in 2008. Today, he remains grateful to everyone who cared for him both before and after his surgery.

» Read Phil's story.

Bob Shoup
Bob Shoup

It was during hunting season in 1985 when Bob Shoup, then 27, started experiencing fatigue and shortness of breath. A few days before Christmas, Bob’s arm went numb, and he couldn’t speak — signs of a stroke.

Several weeks passed and Bob still had no energy, he couldn’t walk across the room without loss of breath. A chest x-ray revealed that his heart was enlarged due to congestive heart failure.

Over the 27 years since his initial heart transplant, Bob has been able to lead a primarily healthy, normal life, and watch his family grow—something he wasn’t always sure would be possible.

» Read Bob's story.

Stacey Vernallis
Stacey Vernallis

When Stacey Vernallis, a fit, active trial attorney and mom of three, came home from a business trip with a cough, the last thing she suspected was a heart problem. Just months later, Stacey learned she had cardiomyopathy and was in congestive heart failure. To support her heart until a transplant, Stacey received a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD.

Stacey received a heart transplant in July 2014 and works every day to regain her active lifestyle as much as possible. She’s also actively involved in spreading the word about the importance of organ donation.

» Read Stacey's story.

Mary Ann Wahl
Mary Ann Wahl

Prior to a life-changing transplant at UPMC Presbyterian, Mary Ann Wahl’s heart condition prevented her from experiencing the many joys of raising her daughter, Katy.

These disappointments and struggles were caused by restrictive cardiomyopathy — a disorder in which the heart chambers are unable to fill properly with blood because of stiffness in the heart.

After a three-month recovery period, she felt fantastic, began walking four miles a day, and made plans to embrace life with her husband, Bob, and, of course, her daughter.

» Read Mary Ann's story.

Heart and Vascular Patient Story

Heather Blum

Heather Blum

Heather Blum had been healthy her whole life. But when the 31-year-old started feeling weak and run down, doctors at the Heart and Vascular Institute found she had a life-threatening heart arrhythmia.

She needed open heart surgery and a left ventricle assist device (LVAD) to buy her time waiting for a heart transplant.

However, within two months, Heather's failing heart regained strength and doctors successfully removed the LVAD. She thanks the UPMC artificial heart team for saving her life.

» Read Heather's story on UPMC's Heart and Vascular Institute.


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