The course of Wendell Lampkin’s life changed in little more than a heartbeat.
In December 2006, Lampkin, a healthy, active 37-year-old from Florence, Ky., began to notice he was unusually breathless after activities as minor as tying his shoes.
His physician was puzzled; Lampkin hadn’t suffered so much as a cold all winter. He scheduled Lampkin for an appointment with a cardiologist, but in just a week’s time, before the appointment, Lampkin ended up in the emergency room in the middle of the night.
Lampkin was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy. A virus had destroyed his heart muscle. A stint with a defibrillator didn’t help, and by April Lampkin ended up at OSU’s Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital as a heart transplant candidate.
“My doctor had a good relationship with Ohio State and thought I’d be a good candidate. I was put on the heart transplant list on April 10, and within three days I got a call that they had found me a heart,” he says.
Lampkin’s short wait was highly unusual. According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, only 10 percent of patients nationwide receive heart transplants in less than 30 days.
Lampkin’s prior good health actually worked in his favor. He was in the hospital for 17 days, and incredibly, started back to his job as a customer service representative part time on June 1 and full time two weeks later.
“I’m incredibly blessed,” says Lampkin. “The doctors at OSU were just top-notch, I don’t know how you could get better care. I’m back to a normal life.”
Since then, Lampkin suffered from a bout of minor pneumonia, and transplant-induced diabetes, but has completely recovered from both.
Lampkin says his medical team’s continuing care and family support made a huge difference in his ability to stay upbeat, which he says was critical throughout his ordeal.
“When I received my transplant, I didn’t even know my situation was so extreme,” Lampkin explains. “My physician said later that they thought I had maybe four days left of life. My heart was nearly at a standstill. Because of the care of the doctors, I just stayed positive about everything.”
Over the past year, Lampkin has regained his strength and normal physical activity. He plays T-ball and soccer with his now four-year-old son Isaiah and exercises regularly.
“It’s been just amazing. Whatever your physicians tell you, you should do,” he advises transplant patients. “Everyone plays a major part – the physician assistants, the nurses, the doctors. Everyone has a role, and it makes things so much better when you’re all on the same path.”
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CindyCindy has received the miraculous gift of life at The Ohio State University Medical Center not once but twice.
Cindy became the 12th heart transplant patient at Ohio State’s fledgling program back in 1987 when her heart muscle was attacked by viral cardiomyopathy.
“I just thought I had a really bad cold and pneumonia; it all happened within three days,” says Cindy, who was 30 years old at the time. “I went to the doctor for antibiotics, went in to the ER when it got worse. Then I was life-flighted to the hospital.”
Cindy’s heart rapidly failed, and her family braced for the worst. But in the first of a series of serendipitous events, it was determined that she was a candidate for the pioneering Jarvik Heart® pump only then recently approved by the state of Ohio.
The pump provided Cindy a shot – an opportunity to prolong her life for about 30 days, giving her team a chance at finding a heart donor. The transplant team at Ohio State swung into action, and on the 28th day, that donor was found.
Cindy had to overcome tremendous challenges, including blood clots and a stroke. She had to relearn to walk and talk all over again, but the transplant was a success.
Cindy went back to her family life, celebrating her daughter’s sixth birthday, slowly regaining her old levels of activity.
Twelve years later in 1999, doctors told Cindy that her heart was again failing, and that she needed another transplant. This time around, she said, she walked into the surgery and practically walked out.
“The first time around I was pretty weak,” Cindy relates. “I had a lot of physical therapy and speech therapy because of the stroke.
It’s been nine years since that second transplant, and Cindy says she’s still going strong. She’s the grandmother of a toddler now, and reports she’s worn the seat off of a stationary bike exercising.
Cindy says patients should expect a roller coaster of emotions.
“You go through all different kinds of emotions afterwards. You cry, yell, you get mad. What got me through it was prayers. I’m hard headed, determined to go on.”
She says the physicians and staff at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Transplant Center feel like family to her. “They always take care of me. I’m part of the woodwork there. I’m spoiled.”
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