Allison Perry

Lexington Man Who Had Heart Removed Waits Patiently for Donor

Published: Feb 28, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 28, 2013) — In February, as Valentine's Day comes and goes, reminding everyone to "have a heart," many of us take that simple biological fact for granted. But for 53-year-old Rick Elliott, it's a huge deal. Elliott, a Lexington resident, has been living without a heart for a year now, and waits patiently for the day when an appropriate donor heart is found for him.

 

Elliott, who has no prior history of heart problems, first fell ill in November 2011. He developed bronchitis and pneumonia that persisted throughout the holiday season. His health worsened, and he was admitted to St. Joseph Hospital on Jan. 25 of last year. Doctors there determined that he had suffered damage to his heart, and referred him to UK HealthCare for consideration of treatment options.

 

Dr. Navin Rajagopalan, medical director of cardiac transplantation, examined Elliott and determined that his heart was far too damaged to salvage with a ventricular assist device (VAD) — he needed a complete heart transplant, immediately. However, donor hearts are hard to come by, and the uncertain waiting period for a new heart posed a problem.

 

"Rick probably could have survived an immediate heart transplant, but it can take weeks, months, or even years to find an appropriate donor heart," Rajagopalan said. "He was too sick to wait."

 

On Feb. 29, 2012, Elliott's damaged heart was removed and he received a SynCardia Total Artificial Heart (TAH) as a bridge to transplant. Elliott became only the second patient to receive the Syncardia TAH in Kentucky, just two weeks after 20-year-old patient Zack Poe. 

 

The TAH is a device that contains the same components as a real human heart, and for patients who have end-stage biventricular failure — like Elliott — the only options are an immediate donor human heart or a TAH as a bridge to transplant.  

 

Elliott was officially placed on the transplant list on June 1, 2012. He went home to wait on his transplant, but when he began retaining fluid, he returned to UK for evaluation. Ultimately, due to his family's work schedules, he decided to stay at UK so he could remain under surveillance should anything happen that would require medical assistance.

 

It's been one full year since Elliott's heart was removed — and he says he's never felt better. He's just waiting on that perfect donor heart to come through. 

 

"I'm healthier now than I was before," Elliott says. "I just try to keep a positive attitude."

 

Elliott isn't alone. Roughly 3,100 people in the United States are on the waiting list for a heart transplant on any given day, but only about 2,200 donor hearts are available each year. The level of necessity, blood type, and size are among several criteria that determines who receives a donated organ. Additionally, 49 percent of people listed for a donor heart in the U.S. have been waiting for a year or longer.

 

While he waits for his heart, Elliott passes the time by visiting with family and friends and watching movies, and he's even taken up a new hobby — watercolor paintings. He stays mobile to keep up his strength. He knows that an appropriate heart will come one day and he remains as patient as possible until that day comes, without complaint. His perspective on the situation is refreshingly optimistic.

 

"This time last year, I was dying," he said. "And this year, I'm alive and healthy."

 

But he has big plans in place, post-transplant recovery — when asked what he was looking forward to doing the most once he's home and in the clear, Elliott answered without hesitation.

 

"I can't wait to mow my yard!" he said.

 

Just another simple task most of us take for granted.

 

*****

 

Rick's wife, Julie Elliott, has set up a donation fund in his name to help cover the costs of his medical care. If you would like to donate, stop at any Central Bank location and request that your donation go toward the "Elliott Heart Fund."

 

The Kentucky Organ Donor Registry is a safe and secure electronic database where a person’s wishes regarding organ donation will be fulfilled. Just one individual donor can provide organs and tissue for nearly 50 people in need.

 

To join the registry, visit http://www.donatelifeky.org or sign up when you renew your driver’s license.  The donor registry enables family members to know that you chose to save and enhance lives through donation. Kentucky’s “First Person Consent” laws mean that the wishes of an individual on the registry will be carried out as requested.

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Allison Perry, (859) 323-2399 or allison.perry@uky.edu

img_0904.jpgimg_0911.jpg
December
 
1
Resumes and Cover Letters
Circle of Love Gift Return
Mon
2
UK Guitar Studio
Circle of Love Gift Return
Tue
3
Networking and Job Search
Internship Info Session
LNFS Presents: Wayne's World
Study Sounds: Classical Concert
Wed
4
LNFS Presents: Frozen
Ballet Music of Tchaikovsky
Circle of Love Gift Pick-Up
Live Screening of Orion Spacecraft Re-entry
Massage on the Go
Thu
5
LNFS Presents: Winter's Bone
LNFS Presents: Gremlins
Open Studio
Circle of Love Gift Pick-Up
Fri
6
Snow Skiing @ Perfect North Slopes
Sat
7
Free Holiday Shopping Shuttle to Fayette Mall
Sun
8
Undergraduate Research Information Session "How to Find a Faculty Mentor"
Mon
9
Job Club - Identifying Your Skills
Paws for Stress Relief
Tue
10
 
Wed
11
 
Thu
12
Last Day of Classes
Fri
13
 
Sat
14
Free Holiday Shopping Shuttle to Fayette Mall
Finals Treats
Sun
15
Final Exams
Crunch Brunch
Mon
16
Final Exams
Jazzy Holiday Concert
Tue
17
Final Exams
Caregiver Support Group
Wed
18
Final Exams
Thu
19
Final Exams
End of 2014 Fall Semester
Fri
20
 
Sat
21
 
Sun
22
 
Mon
23
 
Tue
24
 
Wed
25
 
Thu
26
 
Fri
27
 
Sat
28
 
Sun
29
 
Mon
30
 
Tue
31
 
Wed
 
 
 
Jan 14
Bicycle Trivia 01/14/2015

Wed, 01/14/2015

Fri, 01/16/2015

Wed, 01/21/2015

Reset Page