Samantha Denti, a patient on the heart transplant waiting list, had less than 24 hours left to live. Then, the "miracle" phone call arrived – a heart was identified for the 28-year-old Toms River resident.
Flash back to Samantha's cardiac issues. When she was 10 years old, her father died after his body rejected a heart following a transplant. Samantha and her brother were both tested for cardiac issues and it appeared all was okay. This was the case until Samantha turned 23.
"I didn't feel well," she says. "It hurt to breathe and I was getting light headed and dizzy." She received testing at Community Medical Center, a Barnabas Health facility, which confirmed her worst fear – advanced heart failure due to cardiomyopathy, the same heart disease that her father had. Samantha would likely need a heart transplant in her late 40s.
Fast forward to age 28 when Samantha continued to experience health issues. Her doctor referred her to Mark J. Zucker, MD, Director, Heart Failure Treatment and Transplantation Program at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC), also a Barnabas Health facility, who determined that the left side of Samantha's heart was markedly abnormal and not pumping effectively. The plan was to implant a ventricular assist device (VAD) – a mechanical circulatory assist device designed to partially or completely replace the function of her failing left ventricle.
Samantha's heart condition worsened sooner than expected. The right side of her heart gave out and now both heart chambers were not functioning. With only hours left to live, Samantha's mother received a "miracle" phone call – a heart was available. Margarita Camacho, MD, Surgical Director of Cardiac Transplantation and Assist Devices, Barnabas Health, boarded a plane to obtain and harvest the heart for transplant surgery.
The heart transplant surgery was a success. When Samantha woke up following surgery, she was profoundly weak and debilitated and had to rebuild her strength just to be able to stand and walk again. Physiologists worked with Samantha to help her regain strength and independence.
"Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is my slice of heaven," says Samantha. "I've never seen such commitment and compassion. The entire staff was phenomenal – they treated me like family. I wouldn't be here today without them."
Samantha, now 29, celebrated her recent "heart-a-versary" by participating in NBIMC's Annual Heart & Sole Walk to raise money for the cardiac unit.
About Barnabas Health Heart Centers – Life is Better Heart Healthy
From our local cardiologists to our world-class transplant, valve and surgical programs, Barnabas Health has built New Jersey's largest and most comprehensive cardiac care network. But we also offer prevention and wellness programs designed to strengthen and protect those with healthy hearts. All with the hope that they'll never need our extraordinary care in the first place. For more information about the Barnabas Health Heart Centers, visit barnabashealth.org/hearthealthy.