Wendell never imagined one day he’d need a new heart. At 37 years old, the active father from Florence, Kentucky, enjoyed his life with his wife Angie and young son Isaiah. But when he started experiencing shortness of breath, he knew something might be wrong.
Not feeling any chest pain or any other symptoms, Wendell went to his primary care physician, who prescribed an inhaler for him. After the inhaler didn’t work, his doctor recommended Wendell get a stress test. When the results came back, both Wendell and his doctor were shocked to find out he had only 10 percent blood flow to his heart. Wendell was immediately referred to Dr. Chung, a congestive heart failure specialist at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati.
"I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know it was that serious."
Before Wendell could visit Dr. Chung, his shortness of breath turned into long coughing fits. It was so bad one night that Angie took him to the closest ER, where he was admitted to the ICU. It was there he was later diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
Determined to beat it, Wendell left the hospital following doctor’s orders of a strict diet, regular therapy and medication. But it wasn’t enough and Wendell’s health got worse. Angie recommended Wendell get a second opinion from Dr. Chung.
At first glance, Dr. Chung could tell something was seriously wrong with Wendell. The doctor monitored him for a few days at Christ Hospital, but before long he knew it would take something more to turn his health around—Wendell needed a new heart.
"Ohio State was the best place for me."
In Dr. Chung’s opinion, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center was the only place to go for a heart transplant. He had partnered with Ohio State before, so he knew he’d be able to stay actively involved in Wendell’s care. Although the idea of a heart transplant was scary, Wendell decided to have the surgery.
Once at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, Wendell entered a few days of testing. As part of the hospital’s program, a former heart transplant patient came to speak with him. His name was Willy, and he answered all of Wendell’s questions candidly and put all of his fears to rest. By the end of the week, Wendell went in for surgery with Dr. Juan Crestanello.
After less than five hours in surgery, Dr. Crestanello came out to reassure Angie and Wendell’s family that everything had gone well. He also told them if it weren't for the transplant, Wendell might have had only days to live. A week later, Wendell was back home.
"I’m still here for a reason."
These days, Wendell continues checkups with Dr. Chung in Cincinnati and with the care team at Ohio State. He enjoys being a part of the hospital’s support program, speaking with other transplant patients about his experience. But most of all Wendell is enjoying this new chapter in his life. He’s back to being the active father he was with son Isaiah, and doesn’t take a single day for granted. Wendell knows he’s here for a reason, and that by sharing his story, he can help save others.
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