From Heart and Lung Failure to 80-Mile Bike Rides
In 2003 Chas Devlin received a combined or "dual" organ transplant, heart and double lung. For the three years before his transplant, Chas was on oxygen all day, every day. In 2014, Chas finished the MS City to Shore Bike Ride. In fact, that was the fifth straight year he and his wife participated in the 80-mile bike ride. Here is Chas sharing his story and his advice for others awaiting transplant.
As I write this in July of 2020, I'm 62 years old and have been married to my wife, Maryann, for the past 39 years. We have three children: Tom, a high school teacher and track coach; Megan, a Penn Medicine Palliative Care nurse; and Rob who received his PhD from Harvard University and is the CEO of a startup company, Metalenz. Thanks to my donor, I've been allowed to experience many milestones in my children's lives — high school and college graduations, marriages, the birth of two grandchildren, looking forward to a third grandchild next month and many extended family events.
My Journey to Transplant
My journey to my heart and double lung 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 the Penn Transplant Institute for a heart transplant evaluation. 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 Penn for a heart transplant. This time, doctors determined that my weak heart was taking a toll on my lungs. I was now suffering from secondary pulmonary hypertension (PH), and 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 Second Chance Transplant
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 worked for 14 years as a full-time retail store manager. In 2018, I was lucky enough to be able to retire and spend more time with family.
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.