Before Ivy Johnson, 45, visited Hahnemann University Hospital, she was almost always tired, lethargic and short of breath. Some days, it was hard to even get out of bed. She attributed her low energy to her chronic asthma, until she began having chest pain and visited the emergency room at Hahnemann.
“I went to the ER expecting to get treated and sent home,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting my life to change. I met with a cardiologist. She asked me a lot of questions. Did a lot of tests. Changed my meds. I was really impressed by her and the whole team. I’d never been to a hospital where everyone actually works together.”
A life-changing decision
Ivy was diagnosed with an abnormal heart valve and an enlarged heart, and with her heart function decreasing, was told she needed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator — or a heart transplant.
“The meds could only help me so much; I knew I had to take the next step,” Ivy says. “I was told that if I got the defibrillator, I wouldn’t be a candidate for a heart transplant. I decided I wanted to get on the transplant list.”
Ivy didn’t have to wait long. Amazingly, on Oct. 9, 2015, after only a month and a half on the transplant list, Ivy received a new heart. It was a significant date for Ivy, and for more reasons than her surgery.
A new beginning
“My son was killed almost a year to the day. He was only 25, but he was an organ donor, so someone ended up getting his heart. Then a year later, here I am, and because of an organ donor, I get a new heart, and on my daughter’s birthday! I just never imagined it would happen that way. It was such a humbling experience.”
Ivy’s nine-hour transplant surgery was performed by Wade Fischer, M.D. After the successful transplant, Ivy spent four weeks at Hahnemann. She is now recovering at home with the help of her three daughters, and says her and her doctor’s main goal is to avoid infection and continue to build up her strength. She says her breathing has already improved and credits the Hahnemann heart team with saving her life.
“It’s hard, but I know that every day I’m getting stronger and it’s because of my team,” Ivy says. “I feel like they really know me and care about me. Everyone is just amazing. I was in the hospital on my birthday, and the nurses surprised me with a cake and sang ‘Happy Birthday.’ That really touched me.”
Ivy says she continues to stay strong with the support of Diane Snipas, R.N., her heart care coordinator, whom she refers to as “Mother Hen.”
“Diane is just so awesome,” Ivy says. “She’s like my Mother Hen. She helps me to stay strong for my babies. She introduced me to another woman who had a heart transplant. It helps to know I’m not alone. It gives me hope that someday I’ll be able to run around with my grandkids again.”