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Hartford Hospital employee news.

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  • RxTraJuly 23, 2012 Vol. 68 No. 27

    A publication for the staff of Hartford HospitalA Hartford HealthCare Partner

    Colby Gets A New Heart

    After 166 days in Hartford Hospitals Cardiac ICU, 24-year old Colby Salerno received a precious gift of life from an organ donor.

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    Young Mans Wait For a New Heart Sheds Light on Hartford Hospitals Transplant Program

    After 12 years of surviving with a debilitating congenital heart defect, and spending 166 days in the cardiac ICU at Hartford Hospital, 24-year-old Colby Salerno from Cheshire was implanted on May 29 with a strong, reliable heart. The new heart brought health and quality of life back into his world. But it was the whole-person care he received at Hartford Hospital, plus the creative outlet of the honest and witty blog he kept during his 6-month ICU stint and the greater cause it served that made the wait bearable. Colby had suffered since he was 12 from hyper-trophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that makes heart muscle thicken and forces the heart to work harder to pump blood. He had devastating weakness and fainting spells throughout his life. A new heart was his only chance at survival. He was put on the wait list for a heart in Septem-ber 2010 and hospitalized in December 2011 when medical necessity required constant monitored and medicated care. Finally, Colbys ideal heart match arrived on May 29, and under the steady hands of his Hartford Hospital surgeons, his transplant went smoothly. The new heart freed him from the 166 days of practiced contemplation and patience in his small hospital room, and gave him a new lease on life.

    Since receiving the strong heart of a young do-nor, Colby has had five heart biopsies, none of which showed any evidence of organ rejection. Colby will be watched closely to maintain an optimal immu-nosuppressive balance for the rest of his life with continued care by his Hartford Hospital team. Colby gives deep credit to the team at Hartford Hospital who kept him alive, sane, and now, thriv-ing with his new heart. He considers his caregivers lifetime friends and is forever devoted to making his organ donor proud.

    b Transplant Program The first heart transplant in Connecticut was per-formed at Hartford Hospital in 1984 and its recipient is still alive and well. Today, the hospital hosts com-prehensive heart, kidney, and liver transplantation programs. To date, 337 hearts, 2,044 kidneys, and 414 livers have been transplanted here.

    The heart transplant program boasts the largest volume in New England with patient numbers growing each year, and a 93% success rate compared to the 88% national average. Hartford Hospital is furthering its commitment to the latest in transplantation with the development of an inpatient transplant service, a dedicated heart care unit, and renovations to the abdominal transplant outpatient space, all of which will further integrate the medical disciplines involved in transplants. Colbys physician, Dr. Detlef Wencker, director of Hartford Hospitals Center for Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant, attributes Colbys quick recovery rate to his mental and physical activity while on the 10th floor ICU, and to the team approach to care taken by hospital staff. Transplantation director Dr. Patricia Sheiner strongly agrees. Administration and the people that I work with are committed to transplant, says Sheiner. That makes a difference in terms of being able to continue to have a program prepared to face future challenges. Sheiner, who joined the transplant team nine months ago, says the hospital takes a very multidisci-plinary approach to organ transplantation. Surgeons, physicians, psychologists, social workers, financial coordinators, dieticians are all in the office, she said. Transplant is a hospitalwide process. This way, the patients care really gets managed well, and necessary communication happens among the team. Sheiner cites a true spirit of respect for organ donors at Hartford Hospital. Jami Tyska, the in-house organ donation coordinator, facilitates relationships between the donor families and the hospital team. Flag raising ceremonies are performed on the hospitals front lawn in honor of every organ and tissue donor. The flag flies for two days to honor those who have passed but live on through their donated organs and the family members that survive them. This is some-thing Sheiner has not seen in other transplant centers she has worked in.

    b Support for Waiting Patients In 2009, Wencker began work with the hospital adminis-tration to develop a support program for potential organ transplant patients. This has allowed Hartford Hospital to treat patients like Colby who are so sick that they have to stay in the hospital while waiting for a heart.

    During his six-month stay, Colby was kept alive with a medications that kept his blood and brain func-tioning properly while he waited. Careful attention to his emotions was also a main component of the care plan. The mind leads the body, says Wencker. The monotony and isolation of such a long hospi-tal stay was grueling at times for Colby who was used to the active, independent life of a young man. But he says he was carried through those tough times by the staff of Center 10, which was his home for half a year. They got to know me as a person, says Colby. Once they stabilized me medically it became more of a bond between us and that was the best way to provide the care. It was not just about making sure I was on the right medicine, but also giving me an outlet. If I hadnt built those relationships, I wouldnt have done as well.

    By Karin Diamond

  • 54

    Colby recounts sto-ries of nurses coming in on their days off to play games, watch movies, or order food with him. He helped one nurse tie ribbons on bottles of bubbles for her upcoming wedding, and an-other troll her match.com site for potential suitors. On his birthday, they celebrated with him in the hospital. Thats taking nursing care to new level, and I dont know if they realize how much of a difference that made, he says. From the food people to those that clean the room to the nurses, doctors, and PCAs, I was just blessed, and I didnt run into a single person that I didnt like or that didnt want to work with me on what I needed. Colby admits he wasnt a big fan of hospital food for six months, but was impressed by the personalized attention he received from the Food Services staff who worked with him to cre-ate meals that he could enjoy. When I got lonely, that was when the nursing staff came into play, says Colby. My room was the hangout room. When the ICU got hard for the nurses, they would come in my room to chill out for a minute. What they didnt realize is thats what got me through my days and took my mind off the day-to-day grind.

    b Party in the PenthouseColby called his small room his penthouse, and put a sign on his door that read: Partys This Way. Over his months of waiting for the new heart, he transformed his hospital room into a dorm room by filling the walls with pic-tures, hanging a dart board and putting in a golf putting green.

    What I learned most from other patients waiting for heart trans-plants was patience, said Colby. My generation is the want it now generation. I had to learn to get rid of that mentality. I had to sit here and man up for a long time. He admits that it was bit-tersweet when hed learn that another patient on the floor had received the perfect heart and was moving on to transplant surgery. There are many factors that go into finding the perfect heart for an awaiting patient, such as organ size, blood type, and the age of the heart, explains Wencker. Colbys blood type was particularly hard to match, and doctors wanted to hold out for a young donors heart for as long as possible. The perfect heart did arrive finally, on May 29. Colby blogged late in the night before his sur-gery about the mix of elation and fear he felt: Too many emotions at once just completely numbed the senses. I was elated, scared, sad and who knows what else all at the same time, he typed. In those moments its like Christmas and your birthday at the same time, said Wencker. There is so much excitement to share the news with the whole

    department because its the time we all wait for. Wencker explains that the team has to stay very focused and make sure that all factors are in order before the heart can be transplanted. The clinical aspects of the deceased donor need to be evaluated in detail to rule out po-tential complications that might have affected the heart.

    b A Blog is BornColby readily admits that the journey to transplant wasnt easy, but his coping mechanisms carried him through. In addition to extremely supportive parents and siblings, slews of friends and supporters, Colby was carried by a blog he started writing, called Tales From the 10th Floor. The blog was born as an at-tempt to prevent boredom and keep him connected to the out-side world. It grew to be much more than that, as evidenced by

    the outpouring of con-

    tacts he received thank-ing him for sharing his story and telling him how much his hon-esty and courage helped them do deal with their own difficulties. His blog has nearly 45,000 hits to date and has brought Colby into the media circuit. His story caught the attention of CNN and dozens of area media print and

    television outlets. He earned the 2012 Hartford Courant Webster Award for Best Health Blog and Best Overall Blog in Connecticut. I think I allowed people into my personal life further than most transplant patients ever have, he says of his blogs popularity. I allowed them to see what we deal with emotionally. People were able to gravitate toward that and relate on a more personal level. As his readership grew, Colby felt it became his duty to write about the organ transplant pro