Follow up Friday: From Healthy to Heart Failure at 37

For Meghan Stapleton, having “normal” problems is what makes her happy.

“When you consider that at one point two years ago, I was basically ‘dead’, having regular problems, living a typical life, is monumental for me,” said Stapleton.

In the summer of 2017, Stapleton began having pain and numbness in her left arm. She couldn’t catch her breath and she felt like she was going to pass out. After calling 911, she was brought to Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital where physicians discovered she’d developed a rare, potentially fatal, condition known as spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). SCAD occurs when a tear forms in a blood vessel of the heart and can result in a heart attack or heart rhythm abnormalities.

Stapleton’s situation became a critical emergency, and she was transported via Memorial Hermann Life Flight® to Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Texas Medical Center. There, she underwent a double bypass surgery.

“I felt good for a little while after the surgery,” Stapleton said. “But it wasn’t long before I started to feel awful. I was told my heart couldn’t pump enough blood on its own.”

Stapleton experienced cardiogenic shock, and the team from the Memorial Hermann Center for Advanced Heart Failure was brought in to try and save her life.

“Our team of affiliated doctors are some of the best in the nation at diagnosing and treating complex heart conditions like Meghan’s. The multidisciplinary team coordinates the best possible treatment plan for each patient, utilizing the full range of interventions, from medical to surgical, at our fingertips,” said Biswajit Kar, M.D., Chief and Program Director, Medical Division, Center for Advanced Heart Failure, Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-TMC.

In Stapleton’s case, that meant a heart transplant.

“The key to a successful heart transplant is found in the highly skilled nature of the team of physicians, nurses and support staff involved in the process. At the Center for Advanced Heart Failure, not only do we perform dozens of heart transplants every year, but we also participate in national and international research trials, putting us at the forefront of medical innovation,” said Igor Gregoric, M.D., FACC, Chief, Program Director, Director of Research, Surgical Division, Center for Advanced Heart Failure, Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-TMC.

It was just 53 days from the time Stapleton arrived at the emergency center to undergoing a heart transplant.

“I owe so much to the brilliant doctors and nurses at the two hospitals where I was treated. I made friends with several people who are now like family to me. The Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute is a very special place,” said Stapleton.

Now, as she nears the second anniversary of her heart transplant, the mother of two says she’s happy to be dealing with the everyday problems.

“I love having problems that everyone else has. I love watching my sons participate in activities. I am so very lucky I get to be part of their lives as they grow up. Soon, I get to have a mini family reunion to  celebrate my grandmother’s 99th birthday. These are all things I would’ve missed if it hadn’t been for the team at Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute. And I really mean ‘team.’ The whole team has helped me recover and keeps me healthy to this day,” said Stapleton.

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Ali Vise