September 20, 2002

Heart transplant survivor raises banner of inspiration

Featured Image

Heart transplant survivor Michael Prescott is encouraging others to participate in the Oct. 20 Heart Walk on Vanderbilt’s campus. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Heart transplant survivor raises banner of inspiration

Michael Prescott is familiar with solving problems.

An engineer by training, Prescott knows how to solve complex problems. Little did he know, at the age of 34, he would be presented with major health problems that would give him little chance of survival.

The problems started on a cold winter day in 2000, a day on which lovers often exchange candy hearts — Valentine’s Day. Prescott was reminded that day how fragile the real heart can be. He suffered his first heart attack. Three more followed in the ensuing months.

“My grandmother had a heart attack when she was 42. My mother had one when she was 32,” said Prescott. “I guess it’s no surprise that I had mine at 34.”

The four heart attacks did their damage. With less than 5 percent heart function, Prescott was brought to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and immediately placed on the heart transplant list.

“God wasn’t done with me yet,” he said.

From October 2001 to December 2001 he waited for a matching donor. It was during that time he became good friends with another man waiting for a new heart, Gerald Brown.

“He was my motivation and daily inspiration,” Prescott said.

While Prescott survived his heart transplant and remains healthy today, Brown was not as fortunate. It’s in his memory that Prescott now spends his time encouraging others to walk in the upcoming 2002 American Heart Association Heart Walk, Oct. 20 on the Vanderbilt University campus.

“As Gerald Brown did with me on a daily basis while waiting for my second chance on life, I now raise the banner of inspiration,” Prescott recently told a group of potential walkers. “Thanks to the American Heart Association, the research they fund and the tremendous financial support they provided, I was able to take my son to his first day of kindergarten. I am able to do the things I still love.”

Prescott has set a personal goal to raise $35,000 in the walk. He has already raised more than $7,000. He’s recruited more than 79 walkers to participate on his team, three of which are heart transplant survivors from Vanderbilt.

The Heart Walk raises money for heart disease and stroke research, public and professional education, and community service programs. Much of the money raised supports heart disease and stroke research being done by VUMC investigators, including the work of Dr. Mark Wathen, assistant professor of Medicine in the Cardiovascular Medicine Division with the Vanderbilt Page-Campbell Heart Institute.

Wathen, who is president-elect of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the American Heart Association (AHA), has conducted research into how genes help determine heart rhythm. Much of his training as a young investigator was paid for by funds from the AHA.

“The funding comes from people like me and you,” he said recently. “The Heart Walk is the No. 1 fund-raiser for the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the AHA.”

The 2002 Heart Walk marks the 10th anniversary of the Nashville walk and is comprised of a two- or four-mile route. It typically draws more than 5,000 walkers from across Middle Tennessee. VUMC leaders hope to have more than 100 Vanderbilt teams with at least 10 walkers per team. The 2001 Nashville American Heart Walk (the sixth largest walk in the country) involved more than 8,000 participants and raised more than $675,000 to support the American Heart Association.

The Vanderbilt team that raises the most money, has the most walkers, or has the most money raised per team member will receive $1,000 for their department to use.

Another incentive for walkers includes a four-day, three-night cruise for two for anyone who raises more than $1,000. The prize does not include transportation or port tax.

For more information, contact Jan Cotton (3-1156) or Jill Forbert (6-1368).