Sunday, September 19, 2010

A turly inspiring person

So normally I would not write about fellow heart transplant patients 2 posts in a row, but these two ladies just struck me. This lady I am going to introduce you to is so inspiring. She won this years essay contest for the Ride of a Lifetime contest, after you read her story I will explain why she touched me so much!

Jennifer Shih
Atlanta, GA
Heart Transplant Recipient

The phrase “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” from Robert Burns is very fitting for transplant patients. I was a Pediatric Cardiologist fellow 5 years ago when my plans went awry. I had just finished 20 years of schooling, and 3 years of pediatric residency to fulfill my dream of becoming a pediatric cardiologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, a very long-term plan. While on call one night, I felt a little tired and a was a little short of breath after climbing a flight of stairs to my office, so I decided to perform an echocardiogram, an ultrasound examination of the heart, on myself. I found unexpected fluid around my heart, which was strange since I had never been sick in my life. In fact, I was the perfect doctor because I rarely seemed to catch illnesses from my patients.

Because of the fluid in my heart, I decided to take myself to the ER. It was a good thing that I did because I went into cardiac arrest 6 hours after I performed the echocardiogram on myself. At that point, I underwent emergent treatment and a med-flight to the Cleveland Clinic. Upon arriving there, I arrested a few more times and my heart could not be shocked into working order again. To save my life, I was brought to the operating room to have a BiVAD placed to keep me alive until a lifesaving heart could be found to transplant. Since I essentially did not have a heart anymore, I lived in the ICU until I heard the news a heart had been found for me. It had been about a week since the time I was completely normal to finding out I would die without a heart transplant.

After my lifesaving transplant, I recovered for 3 months in the hospital and 2 years on disability. I wasn’t able to practice pediatric cardiology anymore due to the activity and risk of infection exposure. In that time I started the Have a Heart Benefit Fund with my friends. We raise between $10,000 and $20,000 each year to help fund transplant patient care, education, and research. I have always loved helping people and this has been a great way to show my gratitude to donor families as well.

I now have my heart transplant care followed at Emory in Atlanta, have gotten married, and work as a pediatrician in the neonatology department at Emory, while running the benefit. My transplant has made me a more empathetic doctor, since I can truly understand what it feels like to be a patient. It has also made me live life to the fullest even more than before and not take any of my relationships with family and friends for granted. I am forever grateful to those who give the Gift of Life.

Jennifer inspires me so much for so many reasons. She literally went as far as she could go as a pediatric resident and now is a neonatologist. When I started getting ill a lot and had to be around a lot of bad doctors, I decided that one day I would like to be a doctor and my long-term goal is to be a doctor, but I never though that would be a possibility since being a doctor is physically demanding. Reading Jennifers story just kind of made me realize it could still be a possibility. I have had my hopes set of pediatric cardiology, but in the last few months I had been thinking neonatology because the babies are so small I can physically handle them and they are less likely to be infectious.
She inspired me that she took the time off of work that she needed, she went back to work as a Dr. (she did not just get married and "quit" as a lot of young women do, while she was recuperating she volunteered, and she is giving back).
Her story just gives me a better picture of the future of my tx!

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