New Jersey, United States
Diagnosis: Congestive Heart Failure
As you become a parent and a grandparent, few things are more important than family and the opportunity to watch them grow. Sadly, congestive heart failure (CHF) is the most common diagnosis in hospital patients over the age of 65, and the CDC estimates about half of those patients will lose their lives to this condition within 5 years of being diagnosed.
A beloved great-grandparent surrounded by her large, loving family, Gloria was told there were no more options for treating her CHF—but she wasn’t ready to give up hope.
Living in Fear
A little more than a year ago, Gloria noticed subtle changes to how she felt during her normal daily routine. “I was taking my dog on our daily walk and I started losing my breath more than usual. I mentioned it to my family, but they thought I had maybe just walked too far.” Soon Gloria noticed she was growing weaker and weaker.
In 2014 an episode with ventricular tachycardia (v-tach or VT)—an abnormally rapid heartbeat caused by malfunction in one of the heart’s ventricles, characterized by a pulse of more than 100 beats per minute with irregular heartbeats and can make a person feel faint or tired—landed her in the hospital, at which time her doctors determined an implantable defibrillator (AICD) was necessary. The challenges compounded for her, as she recalls at one time experiencing 6 shocks from her defibrillator in a row. Fear soon became a regular companion to Gloria, as she worried that even the simple activity of putting a leash on her dog would set off the AICD.
Eventually the day came when there had been too many episodes and too much scar tissue from her heart attack nearly a decade prior. Feeling pinned with the diagnosis of CHF, she was told her latest treatment would act merely as a “band-aid,” not a fix. Her cardiologist and primary doctor agreed that there was nothing more they could do for her.
“I cried and cried to my doctors who told me that the heart transplant list was the next step for me. I thought there must be something else I could do, but the doctors were both saying they couldn’t do anything more for me and suggested we see if I could get into a clinical trial happening in the US.”
Gloria started down the clinical trial path only to find out that she was not a qualified candidate. After hearing of her experience, Gloria’s primary doctor took time to do his own research and came back to her to talk about stem cell therapy at Okyanos.
Searching for Hope with Cardiac Cell Therapy
Though her cardiologist was hesitant in supporting the decision because he didn’t know if it would help her, with the support of her primary doctor and her family, Gloria traveled to Okyanos in Freeport, Bahamas.
Before she left, Gloria says she had come to terms with her medical situation. “I made my peace with my condition. I knew I had nothing to lose, since my doctors could not do any more for me.”
When she arrived at Okyanos, she was not nervous, though admittedly a little apprehensive. Upon meeting with Dr. Mick, Dr. Malan, the attending nurses and anesthesiologist Dr. Burton, her concerns were put at rest and she was relaxed through the whole procedure. “The Okyanos facility is immaculate. Everyone there was pleasant and sincere,” adds Gloria.
From Fear to Confidence
More than 5 months after her cell therapy at Okyanos, Gloria says life is very different now.
“Life is wonderful, and I’m so thrilled. I don’t go to bed and cry, I feel good. I haven’t said that in years. I can do the vacuuming, which I haven’t done in months. I couldn’t wash my hair properly before because my arms would get too tired. Now I can wash my hair as many times as I want! My fear has turned into confidence.”
Her biggest surprise came when she went to visit her cardiologist for an interrogation of her AICD readings. “He was almost giggly,” she says. “Usually there are a couple of 1s, 2s or even some 3s, but the scores were all zeros. That’s never happened before.”
“I have so much energy. I don’t think I look any different, but everyone says I do. I’m not tired. I’m breathing and looking forward to walking the dog in the warmer weather.”
Stronger Every Day
This past Christmas Gloria was able to celebrate with her whole family—her eldest daughter down to the great-grand baby. With her newfound confident approach to life, Gloria is enjoying the gifts of life and family.
“I’m sure I would have died, as the doctors couldn’t do anything more for me. Now, I look at everyone and say, ‘I’m still here!’ Dr. Mick and Dr. Malan changed my life. I never thought I would feel this good, and I feel stronger every day. Okyanos gave me back my quality of life. All gold stars for everyone. Tell other people—you saved my life.”
Heart Failure Fact Sheet (2013) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_failure.htm
Heart Failure Statistics, Emory Healthcare. Retreived from http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/heart-failure/learn-about-heart-failure/statistics.html