The Challenge: Born with a Heart Defect
Aaron Card had heart problems all his life.
While other kids spent time climbing trees and playing in neighborhood kickball tournaments, Aaron spent time visiting hospitals and having surgeries.
Aaron was born with a heart defect. He had his first heart transplant at just 12 years old, after developing endocarditis — inflammation around the lining of his heart.
The years that followed were mostly good for Aaron.
Driven with a strong passion to help others, he worked as a firefighter and with EMS. He also met his now-wife, Tira, with whom he has a young daughter.
But in 2015, Aaron had some complications that would spiral into serious problems for his heart. He developed coronary artery disease, which narrows blood vessels and makes it hard for the heart to receive oxygen and nutrients.
The Path to UPMC's Heart Transplant Program
After taking several prescription drugs, UPMC doctors discovered Aaron had significant heart damage. They gave him news that he would need a second heart transplant.
After having the necessary testing for transplant candidacy, doctors placed Aaron on the transplant waiting list.
“I was still at home working. I was trying to live my life as much as I could, while my condition just continued to deteriorate,” Aaron said. “I developed kidney issues and eventually my heart just wasn’t able to pump efficiently anymore.”
Stepping away from a job and home that he loved, he was now an inpatient at UPMC Presbyterian. There, he was on constant IV medication while he waited for his heart transplant.
“It was frustrating,” Aaron confessed. “To not be able to do the things I could before. To miss out on some of the major milestones, like being able to see my daughter take her first steps. But I had to make the decisions that were necessary to do what needed to be done for me and my family.”
Support arrived from all over the world. Firefighters near and far sent Aaron their department apparel for him to wear during his hospital stay.
Aaron's wife also made a secret online request to get other firefighters to support him. Little did she know the response she would receive.
“I received well over a hundred shirts and sweatshirts and different things,” said Aaron. “It was definitely nice to see such a strong network of people thinking of me.”
With care from his medical team and support from those around him, Aaron waited for his new heart. Until one day, that wait was over.
The Solution: A Heart Transplant
Aaron’s surgeon, Christopher Sciortino, MD, gave him news that a heart was available.
After learning they both loved the same rock band, Dr. Sciortino swore to take Aaron to the next concert if healthy enough.
Aaron had his heart transplant on January 27, 2017.
Just two months later, Dr. Sciortino fulfilled his promise. The two went to their favorite band's concert with their families, celebrating Aaron’s successful surgery and new chapter of his life.
The Results: Ready to Return to Work
After heart transplant surgery, Aaron remained in the hospital for almost three months and was happy to go home.
Looking back on the obstacles he's overcome, Aaron said he’s grateful for the chance to have a second heart transplant. He can focus on getting better and better each day for his family.
Aaron has ongoing post-transplant care and rehab with the UPMC heart transplant team. His goal is to eventually get well enough to return the job he loves.
“It's definitely worth the struggles and wait. Things happen for a reason,” Aaron said. “For those going through similar circumstances — even if it seems rough and not going your way — just be patient. It will get better.”
Aaron's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.
Learn More About Heart Transplant and Heart Health
UPMC HealthBeat Blog:
UPMC Transplant Services: