Today marks the nineteenth month since my heart transplant at Tampa General Hospital. It also marks the 44th month since I was referred by Dr, Mehmet Oz to the Columbia Presbyterian Heart Transplant Program under the care of the renowned cardiologist Dr. Donna Mancini.
At Tampa General my cardiologist is the very qualified and very comforting Dr. Debby Rinde-Hoffman, Chairperson of the Tampa General Cardiology Department. Dr Hoffman has practiced cardiology and internal medicine for more than 25 years. The really good news is that it shows. She is equally demanding of her patients and staff. In a world where hope, anticipation, disappointment and success mingle into a zany shared exitsence, it is colmforting to hav a consistent director.
My transplant was performed by the highly regarded, five star transplant surgeon from Duke and the Cleveland Clinic Dr. Cedric Sheffield. Drs. Hoffman and Sheffield command much well deserved respect at Tampa General and throughout the field of cardiology.
While at Tampa General, I received courteous and professional service with few exceptions. As a patient on the wait list and in recovery after transplant, I have spent an above average amount of time in various hospitals from Albany, to New York and Tampa. These hospitals all have their strengths and weaknesses, but for transplantation, my experience at TGH was exceptional.
At first, I thought I could manage my own care. After a while, that became impossible. Anyone entering the wait list program should begin by building a support group and network that can deal with everything from discussing situations with the insurer to helping oversee the medication intake. Along the way to transplantation and in recovery, a fitness motivator is a very real benefit.
When on the wait list, there will be days that tying your shoes is a major accomplishment. In recovery and while on the wait list, stairs can look like Mount Everest. To this day, a steep stairwell not only turns my stomach but also turns me away. However, with the help of a sensible fitness program and a motivational voice, you will perform better than expected, get through the wait list in the best shape possible and manage to recover even when things look bleak.
For transplant candidates that are not committed to fitness, a healthy diet and the discipline of proper medication intake, you are working against yourself. Dr. Mehmet Oz’s book You makes it clear how important the best selling author and famed transplant surgeon feels about fitness, diet and holistic alternatives.
Oz strongly supports alternative therapies like meditation, yoga and prayer. He also recommends dual listing. As Dr. Oz provided me access to Columbia Pres, I felt it appropriate to read his books and to respect the opportunity that he created.
Even while attending a prep school that required attendance at church once a day and three times on Sunday, religion has always seemed puzzling to me. Perhaps the belief that finite beings can never comprehend infinite powers should have served notice but religion has too often seemed a sanctuary for times when things were the toughest and then was soon forgotten.
Rather than take to religion in an hour of need, I took to a combination of stretching and praying. The combination did not come easily. When I moved to Tampa, my walking abilities were encumbered. Exercising in the pool, stretching and meditating consumed a good two hours of my day. Gradually prayer became part of my meditation routine.
Even now, exercise, meditating and praying are part of my routine. I expect that they always will be with me.
Before I left Tampa, I had the good fortune to be invited to attend a men’s breakfast Bible Study discussion group. Meeting a group of committed men was just one of the benefits of these meetings. Since the transplant, I have often wondered what my new life would be. Through these meetings and my routine, a trajectory has emerged. I only hope that I can remain healthy enough to put that course of action in play.
But, that is for another day. Today is for gaining strength.