From Heart and Lung Failure to 80-Mile Bike Rides
Chas Devlin is a double transplant -- heart and lung -- recipient. On Saturday, September 27, 2014, Chas finished the Bike MS: City to Shore Ride. This was the fifth straight year that he and his wife participated in the 80-mile bike ride. Prior to that, he was on oxygen 24/7 for three years. He couldn't walk 100 yards without stopping to catch a breath. Here is Chas's story and his advice for those awaiting transplant.
I'm 56 years old and have been married to my wife, Maryann, for the past 33 years. We have three children: Tom, who teaches high school and coaches; Megan, who is an operating room nurse; and Rob, who is a PhD candidate in engineering at Harvard University. Thanks to my donor, I've been allowed to experience many milestones in my children's lives -- high school and college graduations, marriage, the birth of two grandchildren -- as well as attend many extended family events.
My journey to transplant began in 1974, at age 16. During a routine physical for my driver’s license, it was noted I had an irregular heartbeat. I followed up with a cardiologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), and a heart catheterization confirmed that I had cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation and blood clots. It was idiopathic, and I was asymptomatic.
For many years I was followed by my local cardiologist and lived a fairly normal existence. However, when I was in my 30's some minor heart failure issues began to appear. Each time it happened it was a little more severe, and I was treated with an increase in medications and/or additional new medications.
In 1997, I was referred to HUP for a possible heart transplant. Testing showed that my heart was sick, but not sick enough, as yet, to make the list. Nevertheless, I was pretty much assured I would need a heart transplant in the near future.
In the fall of 1999, I was again evaluated at HUP for a heart transplant. This time, doctors determined that my weak heart was taking a toll on my lungs. I was now suffering from pulmonary hypertension (PH), and I would need to be evaluated for a lung transplant as well. I was placed on oxygen 24/7 and began the lung transplant evaluation process. The following year, I was cleared for transplant by both the heart and lung transplant teams and placed on the transplant waiting list.
My wait was a little over three years, with one dry run and one stand by. In April of 2003, I finally received "my gift" and my second chance.
My health, and my life, have been fantastic post transplant. I returned to the working world one year post transplant and have been working ever since. I'm currently a full-time retail store manager.
My advice for those who are waiting for an organ to become available: Don't get discouraged; keep your spirits up. Better times are ahead. Keep yourself as active as your doctors will allow. The better condition you're in pre-transplant, the easier the transplant recovery process will be.
Learn more about the heart and lung transplant programs at Penn.