Stories about: cardiomyopathy

Double the joy, following heart-lung transplant

Heart lung transplant recipient Nicole with her twin Isabella
Nicole, left, and her twin sister Isabella

Nearly six months following a heart-lung transplant, Nicole Kouri makes a triumphant return to school, alongside her twin sister Isabella. It was a pact she made with her Dad back in August of 2015, while her friends were lying by the pool, soaking up the final days of summer, and Nicole was lying in a bed at Boston Children’s Hospital.

14-year-old Nicole was born with a ventricular septal defect (VSD) — otherwise known as a hole in the heart — and pulmonary hypertension, a serious condition associated with VSD that makes it difficult for blood to flow properly through the lungs.

Being sick was Nicole’s “normal.”

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Three decades beat as one: 30 years of heart transplants

heart transplant 30 years Tina Medina and son
Tina Medina and her son Luke

Tina Medina was not a sickly child, yet she grew up knowing something was physically wrong.

She had difficulty keeping up with the other kids in her sixth-grade class and couldn’t run without becoming breathless. Local physicians near her home in Moriah, New York, shrugged it off as asthma — until Tina’s heart stopped twice during a routine appendectomy. “I was told I had a severe heart condition and needed to see a cardiologist right away,” she says.

At 15, Tina was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy, a rare type of cardiomyopathy that causes the heart muscle to become stiff, making it difficult for the ventricles of the heart to properly fill with blood. Three years following her diagnosis, now a college freshman on her way to Syracuse University, she became severely ill with multiple episodes of congestive heart failure.

“The doctors I was seeing in Burlington referred me to Boston Children’s Hospital,” she says. “It was time to look at getting a heart transplant.”

Tina was listed for six months. She was in the cardiac intensive care unit at the University of Vermont Hospital in Burlington when she learned a heart had become available. “I had no perspective that this was a danger, or that this was a huge deal. I looked at it as, I am finally going to be able to run, be able to breathe and not be sick.”

Boston Children’s nurse practitioner, Patricia O’Brien, CPNP, vividly remembers standing in her kitchen, telephone in hand, scrambling to arrange a flight from Burlington to Boston. “We had a plan in place but it fell through, so we were desperately trying to figure out a way to get her here, and we did.”

Tina’s surgery was performed on Aug. 27, 1992. She was the 22nd heart-transplant patient at Boston Children’s, which performed its first cardiac transplant 30 years ago.

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A new normal: Life after pediatric heart transplant

"Danny strong:" Life after a heart transplant
Left to right: Tommie Deitz (uncle), Danny Deitz, Terry Deitz (father), Kayla Deitz (sister), Pam Deitz (aunt) and Trish Deitz (mother)

In September 2015, Simsbury, Connecticut, high school junior Danny Deitz had a heart transplant. 

After a few months of rest and recovery, he’s now back at school, returned to the gym and is spending quality time with his friends. Danny shares what he’s learned throughout his experience with cardiomyopathy and heart failure.

All in all, life’s been really great. I went back to school four weeks ago. Getting back into the work was a bit tough at first — I had been doing one hour of tutoring a day, and now I’m in school six hours a day! But I’m getting used to it. I’m basically doing everything I used to, and it’s nice to be back in that routine.

It got kind of boring sitting at home all the time while my friends were at school, but I had friends over on the weekends. And it made me appreciate the little things more. Being at home with family — that’s really important.

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Danny Strong: High school athlete battles heart failure, gets transplant

As a varsity football and lacrosse player, 17-year-old Simsbury, Connecticut native Danny Deitz was used to pushing the limits of his physical endurance. No doubt the competitive spirit was passed down to him from his father, Terry Deitz, a retired U.S. Navy pilot and two-time Survivor contestant.

But last spring, Danny became concerned about a mysterious decline in his health.  Plays that were once second nature became strenuous, and he started to struggle with breathing during activity. Eventually, Danny felt weak just walking up the stairs of his high school. He was in heart failure — and about to face the toughest summer of his life.

Unbeknownst to Danny and his family, he had a rare genetic form of cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. With his family’s support and care from an expert team of cardiologists, nurses and cardiac surgeons at the Boston Children’s Heart Center, Danny was able to regain strength, return to his community and receive a heart transplant.

Learn more about the Cardiomyopathy Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Learn how this journey has inspired Danny and his family to help others with cardiomyopathy and advance heart disease research.

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