Heart Transplant Changes Fernando's Life

Fernando, Cardiac Patient

It was the night before Fernando, 33, and his wife closed on their house. It had been a stressful week, so Fernando went to the gym. After his workout, he was short of breath. By 1:30 in the morning, he was gasping for air.

“I drove to the local hospital,” said Fernando. “At first, they thought I was having a heart attack, but they found I was retaining fluid in my lungs. They told me I had congestive heart failure.”

In the years following his diagnosis, Fernando's congestive heart failure worsened. He sought treatment from multiple South Florida hospitals, and in 2013, he had a left ventricle artificial device implanted.

“I was lucky enough to have a coordinator at the center where I was being treated who left to work for Memorial,” said Fernando. “I felt she was the only hope I had at that center, so I wanted to follow her to Memorial. I begged her to talk to the doctors there about me, because if a heart became available, I wanted my transplant to happen at Memorial.”

She was able to help Fernando transfer his listing, and the TotalHeart transplant team at Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute began to develop a plan that matched his needs and kept his family involved.

“Fernando was afflicted with colon cancer at an early age, and he underwent therapy for his cancer,” explained Enrique Gongora, MD, medical director of Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute's adult cardiac surgical transplant program. “As a side effect of the chemotherapy, he had injuries to the muscle of his heart.”

Fernando's team of nationally recognized cardiologists took his best interests to heart and began the process of transplant evaluation. Finally, a heart became available.

“That night, something told me to go to bed early,” Fernando recalled. “I lay down, and not two minutes passed before the phone rang. My wife passed me the phone and my Memorial coordinator said, 'Look, I've got great news. We have a heart for you. You need to be here in an hour.'”

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With the technology and expertise to care for every heart at every stage of illness, Memorial gave Fernando a new heart and fresh determination to live his life to the best of his ability.

Fernando spent 18 days at Memorial while his TotalHeart team ensured his heart was beating properly and that his medicines were balancing correctly.

“The entire Memorial transplant experience was remarkable,” said Fernando. “Memorial's TotalHeart care made all the difference for me.”