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Heart Transplant

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.

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HIS SURPRISING DIAGNOSIS

"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.

A HEART TRANSPLANT WAS UNAVOIDABLE

"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.

HE’S AMAZED HE’S STILL ALIVE

"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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Meet Wendell's Care Team

Behind every patient story we feature are the people who made it a success. Learn more below about Wendell’s talented care team.

Dr. Eugene Chung

Dr. Eugene Chung

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Dr. Eugene Chung, Referring Physician, Congestive Heart Failure Specialist

Dr. Chung is a cardiologist from Christ Hospital in Cincinnati who specializes in congestive heart failure.

He initially called Dr. Abraham, director of cardiovascular medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, about Wendell's candidacy for a heart transplant.

Dr. Chung refers patients to Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center because they have the same philosophy in patient care that he does—they pay careful attention to detail, from assessment through follow-up.

He believes Wendell's story is a poignant one, in that Wendell was a young healthy guy whose condition could have been fatal, but now he is essentially cured.

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Dr. Juan Crestanello

Dr. Juan Crestanello

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Dr. Juan Crestanello, Surgeon at Ohio State

Wendell lovingly calls the surgeon who performed his heart transplant surgery "Dr. Juan."

After surgery, Dr. Crestanello told Wendell and his family that if it weren't for the new heart, Wendell might have had only days left to live.

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Dr. Ayesha Hasan

Dr. Ayesha Hasan

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Dr. Ayesha Hasan, Cardiologist at Ohio State

Dr. Hasan is one of Wendell's physicians at Ohio State.

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Several diseases may cause heart failure resulting in the need for a heart transplant. Some of these diseases and conditions include: congenital heart defects, ischemic cardiomyopathy, non­ischemic cardiomyopathy (i.e., viral, idiopathic, hypertrophic, etc.), postpartum cardiomyopathy, malignant arrhythmias and intractable angina.

Screenings before transplant ensure that you are in good medical and psychological health, and that you have the motivation and support to comply with treatment plans. Some conditions that may prevent a heart transplant from being performed include: kidney, lung or liver disease, insulin-dependent diabetes with poor function of other organs, and other types of blood vessel disease of the neck and leg. All patients must meet the chemical dependency requirements of the State of Ohio Solid Organ Transplant Consortium.

If you think you might be a candidate for a heart transplant, please contact your family physician immediately for evaluation. Your physician can determine if a referral to the transplant team at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Transplant Center is necessary.

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is one of “America’s Best Hospitals” and has been for the past 19 years, according to U.S.News & World Report. We're a leader in heart care and heart surgery, ranking 24 out of more than 5,000 hospitals around the country. Since completing our first heart transplant in 1986, we remain the only adult heart transplant center in central Ohio. The success of our program stems from a complete focus on the physical, psychological, emotional and social needs of patients with end-stage heart disease, through transplantation to post-transplant care.

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To learn more about whether you could be a heart transplant candidate, please call:
614-293-3787 or 800-538-1886

Ohio State Expertise

Since completing our first heart transplant in 1986, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has been the only adult heart transplant center in central Ohio. Ohio State’s Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital was recognized as a leader in heart care and heart surgery in the 2010 U.S.News & World Report, ranking 24 out of more than 5,000 hospitals around the country. We focus on the physical, psychological, emotional and social needs of patients with end-stage heart disease, through transplantation to post-transplant care.

Our researchers were among the first in the nation to evaluate the use of cyclosporine, a drug that suppresses the immune system and dramatically improves the success of organ transplantation. Our research teams are currently studying new methods to lengthen the amount of time a heart remains viable for transplantation and are constantly exploring new ways to improve the transplant experience for patients.

Our reputation for excellence helps us attract the best physicians, surgeons, teachers, researchers and nursing staff from around the world—most recently Robert Higgins, MD, who has been named director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center. Dr. Higgins is a nationally renowned surgeon who formerly served as president of the United Network for Organ Sharing and comes to Ohio State from Rush University in Chicago.

The OSU Comprehensive Transplant Center

Ohio State's Comprehensive Transplant Center (CTC) has been a local and national leader in the field of transplantation. Since 1967, the Center has performed more than 7,500 types of transplants, including heart, lung, pancreas, kidney, liver, blood and bone marrow.

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