SH school trustee waits for heart transplant
Vicki Engleman, a longtime supporter of Corydon Central athletics and a member of the South Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees, has a great attitude and spirit as she awaits a heart transplant at Jewish Hospital in Louisville.
Engleman was taken to Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services on Feb. 6 after she said she had chest pains and her heart rhythm didn’t feel normal.
‘In 2002, at her first check-up, they found one artery blocked, so they put in a stent. She’s had to go back for regular check-ups and, in seven years, there was no change,’ Engleman’s daughter, Corydon Central High School Principal Jennie Capelle, said. ‘Last year, they went back and decided that because there was water retention to do a heart cath. They found that her heart muscle was damaged and it was working at only 10-percent capacity.’
Capelle said doctors told her mother that it could be improved with medication and with time off from work. They also told her that they considered putting in a defibrillator, but the medications seemed to be working.
While at Floyd last week, it was decided to go ahead with the installation of the defibrillator, but, during a heart cath Feb. 7, doctors found not only that the repaired artery was 99 percent blocked, but that the heart muscle was not repairing itself.
Engleman was then sent to Jewish, where doctors cleaned a blood clot from the artery. A second clot formed at that time, and it was determined that a balloon pump would have to be installed while Engleman awaited a heart transplant.
‘I didn’t expect to hear that. A few minutes after doctors told us, I had to ask them again what they were going to transplant. I just couldn’t grasp it,’ Capelle said.
The pump, which delivers blood from Engleman’s left ventricle through her aorta, was set to be removed yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) in a brief procedure. This morning, at 7:30, doctors were scheduled to do open-heart surgery to install a ventricular assisting device, which is a mechanical pump operated by either electricity or battery pack that is used to support heart function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts. It takes blood from a lower chamber of the heart and helps pump it to the body and vital organs, just as a healthy heart would.
‘It’s a three-to-five-hour procedure, and after that she’ll be in the hospital for three or four weeks. She can’t go anywhere without either a battery pack or to have the VAD plugged in to a wall. It’s basically going to become a part of her life until a donor heart can be found,’ Capelle said.
Capelle said when Engleman was shown the device and what she would go home with, her first question was, ‘Will I be out of here by sectionals? I’m ready to get this show on the road.’
Between the time the balloon pump is removed and the VAD installed, the only thing keeping Engleman alive will be prayers, Engleman said. After the VAD is in place, Engleman will have to be stabilized and have her body heal for about two months before she could receive a transplant. The VAD, doctors say, is basically a bridge to transplant. If a heart were to become available, doctors would evaluate Engleman and see if her body is ready for a transplant.
‘Jewish Hospital does about 25 heart transplants a year, and nationwide there are only about a thousand hearts donated a year. You think about the number of people out there who are awaiting transplants, and you get a better understanding as to why it’s so important for people to be organ donors,’ Capelle said. ‘She’ll be so blessed to receive a heart.
‘We were already organ donors and had the little heart on our driver’s licenses, but this really hit home for us and perhaps we’ll advocate more for it after knowing how few donors there are.’