A self-described “sports freak,” and avid soccer player turned referee, Jerzy, 57, is accustomed to running long distances up and down the soccer field. However, six years ago, while refereeing a game, the Parsippany Township resident experienced chest pains. His condition worsened so he began a long journey for a solution to his health issues.
It wasn’t until Jerry received an echocardiogram that a cardiologist determined the left side of his heart was not functioning properly and he likely had a rare disease called amyloidosis, a disorder caused by deposits of an abnormal protein (amyloid) usually produced in the bone marrow and deposited in any tissue or organ.
He was referred once again to another hospital to have his bone marrow checked. Doctors told Jerzy that they couldn’t help him because he had “too many proteins in his system.” He then went to a cancer center, where doctors told him his condition needed to be treated like a myeloma – complete with chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.
Jerzy’s fate finally changed when he was referred to Mark J. Zucker, MD, JD, FACC, Director of the Cardiothoracic Transplantation Program at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC) in Newark. Dr. Zucker confirmed Jerzy had amyloidosis involving the heart and set him on a treatment path, including chemotherapy followed by a second stem cell transplant. After further testing, Dr. Zucker determined that Jerzy’s heart was markedly abnormal due to deposition of the amyloid protein and that the only effective option was a heart transplant.
He was listed for transplantation but his condition deteriorated and he was admitted to NBIMC where he would remain until a heart became available – which, miraculously, happened just one day later, enabling Jerzy to undergo a successful heart transplant surgery.
“I have so much energy now,” says Jerzy, who is looking for a part-time job because he can’t sit still anymore. “Drs. Camacho, Zucker and Baran are amazing – they saved my life!”