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Linda Lewis – A Valentine’s Day Heart

 Linda Lewis received a transplant on Valentine's Day 2021. Read her patient story.

The Path to the UPMC Heart Transplant Program 

In the 1980s, Linda was diagnosed with a heart valve issue following the birth of her daughter. She remained under the care of her cardiologist for a while but continued with her everyday life and working in her career. Linda was a dedicated employee of the Pittsburgh Board of Education for 30 years and helped supply every school in the city with food. 

It wasn’t until February 2020 that Linda’s health declined. She began to feel exhausted at her job and had difficulty walking.  

“I was really sick and knew something was wrong,” says Linda. “I couldn’t walk more than a foot and had trouble breathing. At the same time, my husband was very sick and needed to be in a nursing home. I delayed my care so that I could help him.”

When Linda came to the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, the team scheduled surgery in March 2020 to repair her valve, but the leak in her valve recurred. Later that year, in November, Linda underwent another procedure to have a mechanical valve put in. After this procedure, the function of heart continued to worsen, and the team referred Linda to the UPMC Heart Transplant Program to be evaluated for a heart transplant.

The Solution: A New Heart  

On Feb. 2, 2021, Linda was admitted to UPMC Presbyterian to be monitored by the team until a donor heart was ready for her. She received a call on Feb. 13 that they found a heart for her. 

“I was in the hospital with my sister, Lorene, when I got the call,” says Linda. “I remember they told me ‘Ms. Lewis, we have good news – we found you a new heart’ and I was so thankful.”

The UPMC Heart Transplant Program team prepared the heart and on the morning of Valentine’s Day, they took Linda back for the transplantation. 

“So many people sent their love and blessings,” says Linda. “I prayed every day and thanked God for the support I had. I called my husband a few days after the procedure and told him I had a new heart. He was so happy.”

Linda’s Recovery

Linda’s recovery process required unique care, as she was a recipient of a heart from a hepatitis C-positive organ donor. She began a 10-week course of treatment after her transplant to treat the virus and ensure the new organ was healthy. Now that hepatitis C can be treated, it expands the donor pool and increases the number of hearts available for those in need of a transplant. 

About a month into her recovery journey, Linda received heartbreaking news. 

“My husband passed away in March, about a month after my transplant,” says Linda. “It felt like my heart broke. I’m so thankful in God’s timing, that he was able to stay around to make sure I was okay after my procedure.”

Linda’s team of doctors and her support system were there for her every step of the way during this difficult time. 

“My team of doctors and nurses were beautiful,” says Linda. “Lorene was there to care for me after my surgery as well. It’s a long road to recovery, but after you pass the one-year mark, everything falls into place. Right now, I’m back to regular activities and feel so good. I can breathe again.” 

Linda continues to see the team at the UPMC Heart Transplant Program for follow-up appointments. She offers advice to anyone undergoing a similar journey.

“For anyone who needs any type of heart transplant or procedure – don’t give up,” says Linda. “Believe in your heart and you will make it. Trust in your team.”

Linda’s treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.