When UTAH Cardiac surgeons this week transplanted a human heart into the chest of a 29-year-old Kaysville woman who had suffered two heart attacks, they sent a startling message to Utahns: No one is immune from heart failure.
And not everyone can be helped. The demand for transplants still far exceeds the need. Kally Heslop was one of the lucky ones.Four days after a close brush with death, Kally received word Thursday morning that a donor heart was available. The death of a 22-year-old Las Vegas trauma victim saved the life of the young mother of four.
"It's bittersweet because we benefited from someone else's tragedy," said Judy Scadlock, Kally's mother. "I hope that family is comforted knowing their loved one helped so many others."
While organ transplant teams from throughout the United States flew to Las Vegas to harvest a life-saving liver, lungs, kidneys and pancreas, members of Kally's family paced the halls of the University of Utah Hospital, nervously awaiting the arrival of the heart. In their eyes were tears. In their hearts, hope. On their lips, prayers for a miracle.
"All she wants is a chance to be back with her family," said Kally's husband, Mark. The Albertson's employee kept a vigil at the hospital the last week, while a loving extended family cared for Miquel, 9; Tyler, 7; Cassidy, 3; and Lindsey Kay, 6 months.
"She can't believe this is happening to her," Mark said.
Kally proved there's no "typical" heart victim. Heart disease affects people of all ages - often, without warning.
The Utah woman was, in fact, the epitome of good health - an all-around good athlete. She had no prior history of coronary artery disease, no risk factors. All of her four pregnancies and deliveries had been normal.
But mere months after giving birth to Lindsey Kay, her immortality was tested. In a St. George motel, she suffered a freak heart attack, brought about by her pregnancy.
Physicians explained that hormonal changes during pregnancy sometimes cause the artery going into the heart to thin out. Kally's tore - then collapsed, cutting off essential supply of blood to the heart. Nationally, there have been only nine known such cases; most were discovered after death.
A second heart attack in August escalated Kally's deterioration. Monday, she nearly lost her battle.
Then the miracle came.
UTAH Cardiac surgeons, whose success rate is among the highest in the world, performed their 210th transplant Thursday, giving Kally a second shot at life.
"It's all over. The doctor said the new heart is beating like a trooper," an emotional Arlen Scadlock said. "We are all so happy."
But like other family members, Scadlock's prayers throughout the day had also been for the Las Vegas family whose suffering gave the Utahns renewed hope.
"This experience helped us appreciate the importance of organ donations and none of us will be afraid to sign up," he said. "Hopefully, someday we can give back to someone what they gave to us."