Jim Bullard of Piscataway, NJFor eighteen years, I suffered with cardiomyopathy. Cardiomyopathy refers to heart muscle disease. The damaged heart does not effectively pump blood. This disease usually progresses to the point where a patient develops life-threatening heart failure . In addition, people with cardiomyopathy are more likely to have irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias. During this time, I was taken care of by the best doctors, who prescribed the latest medications and a defibulator for three years. Later my condition reached a point where my Ejection Fraction became less than fifteen percent.
As I reflect back on my situation, climbing stairs was out of the question, in fact, I had to carry my laptop around on a roller cart. Walking for more than a city block was impossible without being out of breath. Sleeping at night in a chair was the most comfort for me because with congested heart failure the fluid would not allow me to lie down. Many nights, I spent hours sitting at my computer reading the news. Many of us feel that passing gas is a natural, but in my situation, I had to pop pills to get some relief.
In June 28, 2006 I was fortunate to become a heart transplant recipient at the age of sixty four. The life style which I am experiencing at the age of seventy can be considered a human role model. I firmly believe that the Transplant team can only give you the heart and you, as a heart transplant recipient, have to assume certain lifelong responsibilities.
As I recall, certain responsibilities could not be done alone during the first six months of my heart transplant. My Caregiver/wife assumed full responsibility for me which included but was not limited to: transportation back and forth to service providers, ensured medication compliance and assisting with the emotional and physical aspects of my new life
Some of the medications’ side effects and interactions caused hand tremors, emotional stress, weight gain, limb swelling and lowering my immune system. This information was documented so that the Transplant and PsychiatryTeams were made aware of my at home situation. In many instances, this data resulted in the change of medications’ dosage or types after some consultation. On a few occasions I suffered some emotional issues and after consulting with my Psychiatry Team, I was informed that my decision making process may have to change. I experimented with some changes along with medication and it worked for me.
During the first few years after my transplant, there were many daily tests performed e.g. blood test for sugar, blood pressure, and weight gain. Recording this data as well as graphs seemed to work very well when viewed by the medical teams. I am of the mindset that these great teams see you for a limited amount of time during your visit and if information from the past week can be viewed, they are in a better position to determine my medical progress.
As I recall, hospitalization took a toll on my body and rehabilitation was a must. I was very fortunate in spending only seven days in the hospital. After which, I entered the rehab center as an outpatient for thirty five visits. I was encouraged to continue at the Wellness Center to take advantage of aerobics and strengthening programs.
Almost six years later as a heart transplant recipient, I am fortunate to be in very good health and enjoying my new life style called retirement. I religiously abide by rules such as seeing my medical support teams (Heart Transplant, Nephrologists, Cardiologists, Urologists, Dermatologist and Dentists) as scheduled. Physical well-being is high on my list, which means going to the wellness center four days per week. My community volunteerism is in the form of: Assistant Babe Ruth Baseball NJ State commissioner, Second Chance Hahnemann Chapter President, Middlesex County Aging Council, Piscataway Senior commission, Piscataway Community TV, Cultural Arts commission and Piscataway councilman