Heart Transplant Saves Life of Middlesex Husband and Father
In some people, heart disease is so relentless that it gradually destroys
the heart. That was the case with Rolando Pantoja of Middlesex, who was
nearing death at just 59.
“A transplant was his only option,” says Margarita Camacho,
MD, surgical director of cardiac transplantation and assist devices at
our Heart Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “His heart
failure was so advanced and he was so frail, he almost was not a candidate
for a transplant anymore.”
But Rolando’s strong determination to survive – coupled with
Newark Beth Israel’s expertise – led to a very happy outcome.
“If it wasn’t for Newark Beth Israel, I wouldn’t be here,”
says Rolando, who also praises his family for their strong support. He
received his transplant in April – two-and-a-half months after joining
the national waiting list for a donor heart.
A Difficult Wait
Rolando remembers those nerve-wracking weeks, not knowing when –
or if – a heart would become available.
“I didn’t sleep because I was afraid I was going to die,”
recalls the former master automotive technician, who stayed at Newark
Beth Israel’s nationally renowned Transplant Center while he waited
– too sick to safely live at home with his wife and daughter.
While patients can easily become depressed and give up, Rolando credits
the staff with helping him stay positive and keep fighting for his life.
“The way they took care of me felt like home,” he says. “Everyone
is so warm – from the medical team to the administration to housekeeping
-- they made me feel like I wanted to keep going.”
Rare Benefits for Patients
Moreover, Newark Beth Israel provided an advanced mechanism found only
in top transplant centers, which both protected Rolando’s health
and increased his comfort. The device – an intra-aortic balloon
pump – provides extra pumping power to the heart on a temporary
basis. Newark Beth Israel offers a version that is inserted into the shoulder
area, rather than the leg, which enables the patient to walk around.
“That was crucial to him,” says Dr. Camacho, a leading transplant
expert. “He didn’t want to lie in bed all day.”
The Transplant Center offers other advantages, too: It enables patients
to take fewer medications within six months after surgery. And it provides
a safer, less-invasive method for detecting new blockages in coronary
arteries – using ultrasound, rather than x-rays (angiogram) that
require dye injected into the heart’s blood vessels.
Since the transplant, Rolando has received extensive support from Newark
Beth Israel, including cardiac rehabilitation that started him on a safe
exercise program, and guidance on heart-healthy eating. The staff continues
to test and monitor him, to ensure his body doesn’t reject the new heart.
“I feel great,” says Rolando. “It’s like a second
chance at life.”