Heart Transplant Program Gives Hope

Barbara Schempp

An inherited heart problem has taken a terrible toll on Barbara Schempp’s family: her 66-year-old brother died of it in 2010 and her 6-year-old grand-niece succumbed to the condition several years earlier.

But today, heart transplants and other advanced cardiac treatments at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC), an RWJBarnabas Health facility, are saving people with such serious disorders – including Barbara of North Arlington, who received a heart transplant in July.

Subtle symptoms
Barbara’s heart symptoms started in 2002. At first she was simply tired all the time; eventually she became short of breath, too. The diagnosis: a hereditary enlargement of the heart, called dilated cardiomyopathy, which prevents it from pumping properly.

Medication controlled the problem for a number of years. Then in mid-2014, Barbara developed congestive heart failure -- when the heart doesn’t pump enough blood, and fluid builds up in the body.

She went to NBIMC, where the Heart Center team implanted a defibrillator – a device that prevents the heart from suddenly stopping.

When her symptoms worsened this June, Barbara went back to NBIMC, where doctors determined she had just one option left: a heart transplant. Leading cardiologists quickly placed a tiny pump in her failing heart. That emergency procedure would help keep her alive while she waited for a donor heart.

After only three days an organ became available, and Barbara received the life-saving transplant by the NBIMC team.

Getting back to living
“I feel great,” says the lively 64-year-old. “It’s amazing; I can go up and down stairs without having to catch my breath. I started doing exercises two days after the surgery. My energy level came right back.”