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Phyllis Esau: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Phyllis Esau

The Challenge: Cardiomyopathy

In 1995, Phyllis Esau was undergoing chemotherapy to battle breast cancer. She was able to successfully beat the disease, but shortly thereafter she began noticing it was hard to carry things, she had shortness of breath, and she was tired. Her oncologist referred her to a cardiologist.

Phyllis first saw her cardiologist in 1998. After undergoing initial tests, she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. In cardiomyopathy, the damaged heart becomes enlarged, thickened, or rigid and cannot pump blood effectively.

Phyllis’s heart was in good enough condition for her to go about her normal activities and continue working while having routine checkups with her cardiologist. Over time, however, her disease progressed and she had a defibrillator implanted in her chest.

The Path to the UPMC Heart Transplant Program

Even after having the defibrillator implanted, Phyllis’s heart continued to weaken and it was determined that she would need a heart transplant. She was placed on the transplant waiting list in December 2010.

“My husband was my rock. He helped me with my medications and got me to all of my appointments... I knew I was in good hands with the UPMC doctors, I was not afraid for one moment.”

In fact, Phyllis was more concerned about others than she was about herself.

"I was more concerned for my family’s well-being... I wanted to be strong for them and for others going through the transplant process."

The Solution: Heart Transplant Surgery

In February 2011, Phyllis underwent heart transplantation. After a short stay in the hospital, she was able to go home and began light exercise and walking around the house.

“I have so much energy now, I don’t want to waste a day...  I’m very thankful for my transplant and for the care I received at UPMC. The doctors are so supportive and willing to listen to your concerns...  The amount of care is astounding.”

Since her transplant, Phyllis continues to live a full and active life and even volunteers in the Imaging department at UPMC Passavant a few days a week. She encourages others who may need or are waiting for a transplant to not be afraid and wants them to know that the most important thing is to have a good support system.

Phyllis' treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.

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