2015 Transplant and Organ Donation Calendar: Jerry McCann
Jerry McCann's heart transplant journey began in 1991 after he had quadruple bypass surgery at age 39. Jerry worked to maintain a heart healthy lifestyle but had a second heart attack in 2000 that badly damaged his heart. In 2006 he had a pacemaker implanted to assist his heart, and in 2011 he was listed for heart transplant.
In 2012 it was determined that Jerry needed a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted to help his heart maintain blood flow. Receiving the LVAD was a life-saving and life-changing event for Jerry.
"I was able to enjoy life again," said Jerry. "Before the LVAD, simple things like walking up the stairs were difficult, but after, I was able to resume a more normal life."
Getting the LVAD was a major decision for Jerry. He explains, "At first I wasn't ready to accept that I needed one. I kept waiting for a miracle." He read and researched and talked to as many patients with LVADs as he could. He also recognized that this decision would also have a big impact on his wife Margaret.
"It's a big responsibility for the caretakers too," says Jerry. But Jerry is glad he made that decision. "The LVAD staff members have been fantastic," says Jerry. "I can't believe I'm able to exercise again and return to many normal activities." When his daughter came to town to visit in the summer, he was able to accompany her to the Dane County Farmer's Market - something he would not have been able to do without the LVAD.
Thankfully, the LVAD helped Jerry for two years, until he received his new heart in 2014.
He and his wife, Margaret, are grateful for Jerry's gift of life and are excited they can spend more time at the farmer's market, where they enjoy selecting ingredients for Jerry's favorite soups. They are eager to travel again and are planning a trip to Door County, plus two more - one to each coast - to see their daughters. They could not take these trips while Jerry was on the heart wait list and they are looking forward to being able to spend more time with their family.
Researchers at UW Hospital and Clinics are focusing on areas that benefit people like Jerry. Cardiothoracic surgeon Takushi Kohmoto, MD, and a team of researchers are part of a collaborative program evaluating new LVAD devices. UW Health is one of ten institutions in the nation involved in the new heart device studies.
"The new devices are not only smaller, but better," says Dr. Kohmoto. "They will ultimately improve quality of life as well as improve outcomes of LVAD implantation and heart transplantation."
Researchers are also investigating ways to use non-beating hearts in the donation process and, long-term, to repair the heart through cell therapy. Though some of the research is in an early phase, they anticipate it will one day bring more hope and additional options for heart transplant patients.