Annual Heart Walk a special event for transplant patientOct. 6, 2016, 8:26 AM
On Aug. 4, 2014, Mary Thomas of Tullahoma biked 10 miles.
Fourteen days later she received a life-saving heart transplant at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC).
“It’s still all a blur,” said Thomas, now two years post transplant. “I recall feeling ill the next day after biking. I went to the doctor the day after that and was referred to my local emergency room.
“I was told I had a heart problem and I requested to be sent to Vanderbilt. A few days later I was told I had a rare virus that affected my heart. My heart was failing.”
Thomas was diagnosed with giant cell myocarditis, a rare cardiovascular disorder with unknown causes. She received a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) and was added to the heart transplant wait list. On Aug. 18, 2014, she received her new heart.
Thomas will be among the nearly 10,000 people participating in the 24th annual Greater Nashville Heart Walk on Saturday, Oct. 15, on the Vanderbilt campus. Set to begin at 8 a.m. with family-friendly and heart-healthy activities, the walk starts at 10 a.m. and travels along a 5K route around the Vanderbilt campus. The event also includes a 1-mile Survivor option.
That is where you will find Thomas and her husband, Aled.
“Since my transplant, I have been in a wheelchair,” said Thomas, who experienced polyneuropathy, a non-inflammatory degenerative disease of nerves, which left her unable to walk.
“I am very determined to walk again. Christmas is my goal to be able to walk on my own or use a cane. I am very determined.”
The couple will be joined by a few friends as part of Mark Glazer’s, team, “Dr. G and the Strings,” one of nearly 75 Vanderbilt groups raising money for the American Heart Association’s premier fundraiser.
“I have great admiration and respect for heart transplant patients like Mary and others who have endured so much and yet maintain a positive attitude, a determination to get better and an appreciation for the gift of a second chance at life,” said Glazer, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine.
Thomas was all set to have her husband push her in the wheelchair and intermittently use her walker for part of the route, but she recently broke her hand and the bulky cast is hampering those plans.
“I participate because it means a lot to me having gone through a heart transplant,” said Thomas. “It is a very special event and such a worthy cause to raise awareness about all types of heart related issues. The more people participate and the more research that is pursued is a life that can be saved.”
Last year the couple was joined by John and Martha Rhoads, the parents of her heart donor, Emily.
To walk or donate, click on the following link for the VUMC Heart Walk team page: http://nashvilleheartwalk.kintera.org/faf/teams/groupTeamList.asp?ievent=1150107&lis=1-&kntae1150107=70AFBF409-A9D4942824D7E60F2613A4-4&tlteams=6612210.