Heart Transplant

On Christmas morning, when most families were home opening presents, Mike and Deb Trinkley were at Lancaster General Hospital, where Mike was fighting for his life. He had suffered a heart attack—his second one—and was told he needed a heart transplant.

That's when Mike’s cardiac surgeon at Lancaster General Health called his colleagues at Penn Medicine.

 

A History of Heart Disease

Mike and his family had moved to the Lancaster area nine years earlier. Originally from western Pennsylvania, Mike's job in insurance took him around the country and eventually to Charlotte, NC. He had a long-standing history of heart disease, so when it came time to move to Lancaster, his Charlotte cardiologist recommended The Heart Group of Lancaster General Health follow his care. Mike immediately made an appointment to see one of their electrophysiologists.

Mike’s new doctor implanted him with a pacemaker defibrillator to regulate his heart rhythm.

"For a while, everything was fine," explains Mike. "But then I started having issues with heartburn and was implanted with another stent. The left side of my heart was badly damaged."

A Heart Assist Device is Implanted

By mid-December, Mike was having chest pain. After two or three days, he went to the emergency room at Lancaster General Hospital. He was having a heart attack. His doctor implanted an LVAD, a heart assist device, in Mike to keep him alive. Despite these efforts, his defibrillator went off three nights in a row, indicating his heart was out of rhythm.

"On Christmas morning, Mike's heart became erratic," Deb remembers. "We thought we lost him. Mike’s doctor explained it was time for a heart transplant. That's when he got on the phone with the doctors at Penn. The doctor kept reassuring me Mike was going to be ok. He said he was otherwise healthy. His positive attitude was very uplifting and gave me hope. I was scared, but we knew we were in good hands at LG Health and that everything would be ok at Penn."

Airlift to Penn

A helicopter took Mike to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania later that day.

"Everything was coordinated and went very smoothly," recalls Deb. "Even the helicopter pilot was kind enough to call when Mike arrived safely in Philadelphia."

“It was a smooth transition because the doctors knew all of his situation, they knew what he had gone through and they were very reassuring that this is going to be okay, he was going to be okay, we are taking care of him,” Deb said.

On January 8, a donor heart became available and Mike was taken into surgery.

"I said a lot of prayers," says Deb. "The counselors at Penn were great. They held my hand and made sure I was prepared for what lay ahead."

Successful Surgery and Rehab

After a successful surgery and more than a month in the hospital, Mike was transferred to Magee Rehab. When he was strong enough to be discharged, he came home to Lancaster and completed outpatient cardiac rehab at LG Health.

It's been a long journey, but today Mike is feeling great. An avid boater, he went on his first trip out on the water the following June and went back to work full-time in November.

“Now I feel a lot stronger than I was before. We go for a lot of walks,” he said.

Deb and Mike’s two daughters are thankful for the care he received at both hospitals.

"Everyone was great at both places: the medical teams, the nurses—every step of the way. They really took care of us."

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