“During the days and weeks after a heart transplant, patients are experiencing so much physically, and emotionally. They’re happy they got the transplant but they’re also not sure what to expect. Our job is to keep them healthy and help get them get used to their ‘new normal.’
We first meet our patients when it’s almost time for them to go home after transplant. We spend a lot of time helping them understand what to do once they get home and what to expect in the weeks ahead. It’s a LOT of information, and all very important, so can cause patients to be anxious - they want to get it right. We are here to provide the assurance and support they need every step of the way.
Once they go home, we see patients regularly in clinic for their post-transplant care. We order and review tests, make sure all appointments or other procedures are scheduled, help complete forms, and answer a lot of questions! Many of our patients have other chronic medical issues so we also help coordinate their care with other specialists – it a lot to manage on their own so we support them to make sure that not only their new hearts, but all their parts, are taken care of!
We never stop seeing our patients. We know their whole story and get to see how their lives have changed because of their transplants. Like one patient we cared for who had a very long, complicated recovery after transplant - couldn’t move, couldn’t walk. He needed months of rehab. We recently saw him in the clinic and got to see photos and video of him at his daughter’s wedding. Something like that is unforgettable, it’s the most meaningful part of the job - the ability to help our patients when they are so vulnerable then seeing them do so well and lead a normal life after going through so much.
Each of the post-transplant coordinators follows about 200 patients. That’s a lot but transplant is a forever journey and we’ve done almost 1,500 heart transplants at Penn so, we’re caring for a lot of hearts! It’s a team effort and we have a great team; we help each other out. The two of us started around the same time and have been together for a while now. The whole transplant team – the nurses and coordinators, the doctors and therapists, we’re very close. When one of us goes on vacation, we send pictures to our co-workers and they jokingly send us pictures of them in the office. It’s a family and our patients become part of that family, too.