By the time Tracy Chambers was referred to Washington University cardiologist and medical director of heart transplant Gregory Ewald, MD, she was in the final stages of heart failure. Recalling her life at that time, she says, “I was tired all the time. I was weak. I couldn’t go up five or six steps without breathing problems.” So much of Tracy’s life was difficult and hard to manage. But, she says, “I wanted to live.”
Tracy had a lot to live for: her secretarial work at Jennings High School, her passion for photography, her church’s broadcast program, which she serves as creative leader. And her family. Tracy’s failing heart made it almost impossible to be a daughter to her parents and a mother to her grown children.
“From almost day one, we began to consider Tracy as a heart transplant candidate,” says Dr. Ewald. Once Tracy completed the transplant evaluation and was placed on a waiting list for her new heart, her failing heart began to create more problems. Tracy’s other vital organs weren’t getting the blood they needed to survive, and they began to shut down.
Tracy needed intervention while she waited. It came in the form of an LVAD, or left ventricular assist device. Her transplant surgeon implanted the device, which took over the important job of pumping blood through Tracy’s body. Tracy became healthy enough for transplant surgery.
“My doctors gave me confidence. They told me they would see me through this, and I believed them. When I got the call—when a heart became available for me—I was happy. And I was ready.”
Tracy’s life now is as different as it could be from her life then. Her doctors say her transformation was a team effort—cardiologists, surgeons, nurses and so many more who helped make such a profound change possible. Tracy says, “I’m back to my old ways. When my grandchildren run, I run with them.”