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Stories of hope

Brian Montalbano: Heart Transplant x2

Brian, transplant recipient, and his wife Heather

I had my first heart transplant at nine-years-old. I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in June of 1990 and had my transplant in October 1990. As a kid I was never sick, played sports, and had a normal life. Then, all within four months, I went from healthy to the point where I may not have survived another day. In 1994, out of the blue again, I developed severe rejection, almost didn’t make it. After three months in the hospital and successful plasmapheresis therapy I was back in school and back to ‘normal’ and that original transplanted heart lasted me 20 great amazing years.

In 2011, I was in need of a second transplant, the damage from the 1994 rejection finally caught up to me. Survived a heart attack, multiple stent procedures every six months for four-five years. So again, very fortunate in January of 2011, I received my second heart transplant and another amazing gift and chance at life. I had some complications afterwards, but after four months of physical therapy I was able to get back to work.

The first year or so can be scary, there are milestone dates everyone looks for; well if I make it five years my chance of survival goes up, some of that is true, but I’ve always believed it’s how you approach every day that counts. I’ve had the lowest of lows; heart attack, stroke, cancer surgery, doctors saying I wouldn’t make it – yet here I sit, 30+ years in with two transplants and if I didn’t tell you I was a heart recipient you’d probably never know. I do talk about it though, as organ donation is important and the more people who can see survivors living their best life, that continues to help the cause and the donor families. I feel very blessed to be here today, fully understanding that someone had to pass away for me to have the chance I have; and to those donors and families I am forever grateful.

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Heart, UNOS Ambassador

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