This story was written by Patrick Brett, Heart and Liver Recipient
When I sat down to write my story for Power2Save, I realized I could bore you with a ton of details about my childhood. For example, I was born with Tetralogy of Fallot and have had 5 open heart surgeries before my transplant surgery. I also had an AICD/pacemaker placed when I was 13 years old after passing out on the basketball court. Over the course of the next 22 years, I had 6 surgeries for either lead replacements or recall of the device. Yes, all of that is part of my story but the bigger part of my story started on December 29, 2020. Let me give you some background first.
Despite my heart condition and all of those surgeries, I led a pretty normal, great life. I was able to remain a part of sports teams as a manager where I made lifelong friends. I went to school with all of my peers, and then went on to college and graduate school. I became a high school counselor and met my wife at work. We married in 2014 and now have three incredible children.
When I was 32 years old I had a non-cardiac related surgery. Unfortunately, the surgical site became infected and I developed septicemia. I “coded” in the ER and luckily, my AICD/Pacemaker “shocked” me back to life. Due to this, I met with a Heart Failure specialist for the first time and was told that I was years away from transplant. They decided to put me on a new medication to help my arrhythmias. Unfortunately, about 18 months later, that medication caused me to go into thyroid toxicity which put me into heart and liver failure. I underwent weekly paracentesis to remove the fluid that was draining into my abdomen due to my heart/liver failure, which led to December 29, 2020.
I will remember that day forever. I said goodbye to my family and my wife drove me to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I moved into the 10th Floor of the Founders Wing and was put on the transplant list. When I moved into the hospital, Covid restrictions were still in place so I was not permitted to have visitors. I spent almost three months in my hospital room, my only visitors being the nurses and doctors who kept me alive. I will be forever grateful to them for helping me survive that difficult time. In the middle of March, restrictions were eased and my wife was allowed to come visit. She would come once a weekend and we would have a “date” in my room. We ordered food and talked about life. I was forced to answer some difficult questions and make a plan should the transplants not go the way I hoped. I was allowed to see my children, but only outside, so every other weekend I would meet my wife and kids in an outdoor courtyard for about an hour to visit. Thank goodness for FaceTime.
While my time in the hospital was hard, it also showed me how wonderful people can be. My school district permitted me to continue working from the hospital which made my days go by so much faster. My family and friends made sure to schedule weekly Facetime calls with me to keep me in the loop and take my mind off of things. I also met people I never would have if it weren’t for my transplant journey. People reached out to me every day via social media after hearing about my story from someone else. It was so nice to have so many people in my corner!
On my 185th day in the hospital, I received the phone call that I had been waiting for every single night! After nearly 20 hours of waiting, I received my transplants. My new heart started pumping late at night on July 3rd and my new liver started functioning in the early hours of July 4th, days 186 and 187. Sixteen days later, after 203 days in the hospital, I went home. Unfortunately, after two weeks home, I needed to be readmitted for fluid control and spent 10 more days in the hospital; bringing my hospital stay total to 213 days.
Since then I have gotten better every single day! In January, I completed cardiac rehab and returned to work. I entered the building for the first time since the Pandemic started in March of 2020. I have never felt this good in my life. I work out every day and find that as I get stronger, I am able to do things that I’ve never been able to do before. I can lift my children and carry them up multiple flights of stairs. I can chase after them while playing and dance with them in the kitchen. This Spring, I will coach my two oldest in baseball, a dream of mine I have had since we had children. This Summer, we plan to spend a significant amount of time down the shore at my family’s shore house where I will be able to run on the beach and enjoy life. My wife and I are planning a big party to celebrate my 1 year anniversary to honor my donor and to thank all of those who supported us through this journey.
It is not lost on me that to be alive today someone had to lose their life. I am extremely blessed to be an organ donor recipient. I will do whatever I can/have to to keep these organs healthy and functioning. I am honored to live on the legacy of my donor! I urge everyone to consider becoming an organ donor to help save someone like me. My story sounds as though I went through a lot but trust me when I tell you, it was all worth it and it only gets better from here!