September 24, 1999

Transplant patient has special perspective on this year’s Heart Walk

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Barb Konz, R.N., shared a laugh with Roy Hutson last week during his one-year followup examination.

Transplant patient has special perspective on this year's Heart Walk

What a difference a year makes.

Just ask Roy Hutson. Last fall, he sat looking out his seventh-floor Vanderbilt University Hospital window as hundreds of volunteers assembled in the pouring rain to participate in the American Heart Association Heart Walk.

It drummed up two emotions — sadness and determination. Hutson was waiting for a donor heart at the time and could barely muster enough strength to walk the halls. What he really longed for, however, was to join his other transplant buddies hoofing it for the annual fundraiser.

"As some of the transplant folks came up to visit before heading out to the walk, I thought about how good they looked," Hutson recalls. "I wanted to join them. I wanted to walk in it too, so bad."

Classified as a status 1, Hutson waited five weeks for a heart. His second chance at life came just one week after last year's Heart Walk. This year he will be leading a team of walkers.

"I'm in better shape than my entire team," he says laughing. "They tell me I've been breaking some treadmill and other exercise records. I'm just happy to be alive. Now, I'm going to be walking just like I wished from last year."

It's been 15 years since Hutson's heart problems began. He had bypass surgery twice, in 1984 and 1994, as well as angioplasty. But numerous heart attacks had severely damaged his heart. The hereditary condition that had taken the lives of his brothers and caused his twin sisters to undergo treatment was threatening his own.

"They asked me after my last heart attack if I was willing to have a heart transplant because there was nothing else they could do," Hutson says. "I wanted to live so bad. When they asked me that, I didn't hesitate to answer yes."

Last week, Hutson completed his annual transplant physical.

"He is doing marvelous one year after transplant for coronary artery disease," says Dr. Stacy Davis, assistant professor of Medicine and medical director of the heart transplant program. "He understands first-hand the impact of heart disease on families in Tennessee. Because of his family history, he strongly encourages his children to monitor their health closely."

Davis says Hutson has set exercise records for his age group and has been urged to join the team of heart transplant recipients at the Transplant Olympics in Florida in 2000.

"My life is so much better. Looking back I realized that I am one of the most blessed people. I knew I was going to get my heart. I had faith in that and I had faith that I'd recover. I give God all the glory."

Hutson is not the only participant excited about the walk, scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 3. There will be a special group of walkers known as the "Red Caps" out on the courses.

Roy Goodman, president of Lyric Street Records, says despite following a healthy regime, heart disease gave him a startling wake up call nearly three years ago.

After exercising one day, Goodman felt an odd pain in his neck. The pain, first thought to be nothing, was the result of a very tight narrowing in his coronary artery. He had a MIDCAB, a minimally invasive bypass procedure that required a small incision in his chest. Traditional bypass calls for the chest cavity to be opened.

"I became involved in the AHA following my surgery," Goodman says. "There are new inroads made by the AHA every day and through the support it offers techniques like the one that saved my life are possible."

Although many associate heart disease with an aging population, heart disease affects all ages.

Trevor Denton, 9, can attest to that. At six-weeks old, he had surgery to correct a heart murmur doctors heard during a routine check up. The Franklin Elementary fourth-grader was born with aortic stenosis and has only a slight murmur today.

"He knows his limitations," says Bonnie Denton, his mother. "He loves tae kwon do and football. They are activities I never thought he would be able to participate in."

Trevor says he knows how important it is to be heart-healthy.

"I want to help the Heart Association," Trevor says of his role in the walk. "I also learned the things that keep you healthy, like not smoking and eating and exercising right. I'm excited about the walk. It will be my first time."

Not so for two-year old Randi Lynn Stanfill, who was born with ASD, atrioventricular septal defect (a hole between the upper chambers of the heart). This walk marks her third appearance.

"This is a way for us to help as many people as we can," says Tracy Stanfill, Randi Lynn's mom. "It's also a healing process. We try to give back and help others without feeling like we are intruding on others."

Her daughter's heart defect, first discovered because of a heart murmur, was corrected at 3-months-old. She underwent a surgical procedure that used Dacron fabric to repair the leak between the two chambers.

"She's hasn't slowed down," says Tracy Stanfill. "She keeps up with the best of them."

If you are interested in participating, call Sandee Tishler at 936-0301 for more information. More than 5,000 walkers are expected to gather for the event, which raises money for heart disease and stroke research, public and professional education and community service programs. The event is also intended to raise public awareness about heart disease and the heart-healthy benefits of walking.

This is the second year VUMC will serve as host of the annual walk. Registration begins at 1 p.m. in Lot 42 with the walk set for 2 p.m.