The best part of being a trial lawyer is that I get to meet some of the nicest people on the planet.
Not all of my clients are loveable. I have had a few who are difficult to love, but I attribute that mostly to the misery they live in as a result of some negligent act of a health-care provider or motor vehicle driver. It is hard to be nice when you are in experiencing the loss of a loved one, or you are in severe disabling pain.
Yet, I never cease to be amazed by how some people respond to adversity in such a positive way. Bad things happen to good people, and the bad things can consume them or make them stronger.
I met one of these stronger people last year. Scott was referred to me by another lawyer and told me an unbelievable story that was confirmed by his medical records.
Scott had a heart transplant in July 2016. At the time of his heart transplant he had been given a death sentence. The options were to do nothing, in which case he would have died in a matter of months from ischemic cardiomyopathy, or place himself on the heart transplant list and wait for a call. He chose the latter option, and the call came in late July.
A young man at a local hospital was the donor; he had been shot in the head and had no brain function. Scott underwent the transplant at another hospital, and the surgery was successful. After the surgery, Scott was experiencing some problems and so he underwent an angiogram. It was after that test that he learned that the heart that had been transplanted had an anatomic congenital anomaly. It was not a normal heart.
The heart has two main arteries. One serves the right side of the heart, and the left main coronary artery serves the left side of the heart. Of the two arteries, the left one is more important. Scott’s new heart does not have a left main coronary artery a very rare occurrence.
According to my cardiology expert, the absence of a left main coronary artery is of little clinical significance. He says that there may be an advantage to the lack of the left main artery since the person cannot ever occlude what is not present. He said he would not object at all to receiving a donor heart with that anomaly especially if you consider the alternative.
The left main artery, when present, is a short vessel that divides quickly into the left anterior descending (LAD) and circumflex coronary arteries, two of the three major blood vessels supplying blood to the heart. When a person has a left main artery, there is always the possibility that a heart attack can occur because it can become blocked, thus stopping flow into the LAD and circumflex at the same time.
Given the large amount of heart muscle downstream, such a heart attack is almost always fatal. Without the left main artery, the LAD and circumflex arteries arise directly from the aorta. While heart attacks can still occur if either of them is blocked, there is essentially no risk of them both occluding at the same time. Thus, there is a distinct advantage of having no left main artery.
When Scott contacted me, he wanted to find out what testing had been done on the heart prior to the transplant. Through the amazing cooperation of those involved we were able to find that an echocardiogram and extensive bloodwork had been done prior to the donation. Scott is internet savvy, so he had already learned, as did I, that the standard of care for testing a heart for a donor under the age of 40 is to do an echocardiogram. For older hearts, more extensive testing must be done, but the assumption is that younger hearts are healthier. There was no need to continue our attorney-client relationship.
Scott already knew that not having a left main artery was not necessarily a bad thing, but he is also aware that if anything happens in the one main artery he does have, he will not survive. Yet his future is reasonably bright.
After we reviewed the test results, Scott and I had a lengthy conversation. He realizes that he has been given an opportunity that he would not have had without the transplant. He is now 53 years old and he can lead a relatively normal life. He plans to continue his relationship with his health-care providers and to provide guidance and assistance to others going through the same experiences that he has had. He would strongly encourage everyone to be an organ donor.
A single organ donor can save up to eight lives and impact the lives of more than 50 people. The donor of Scott’s heart gave two kidneys, a lung and a liver. You can be an organ donor by filling out the back of your driver’s license.
Scott spent the last couple of months visiting family in Florida. He was able to spend the holidays with his 34-year-old sister, who he had not seen for several years. The reunion was amazing and introduced him to family he had never met. He will be an uncle soon and he is excited about that. He values every day.
It was an honor and privilege to meet him. We ended our relationship, but hopefully not our friendship. I am truly blessed to have known such a remarkable man.
Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence, www.wagblaw.com. Email him at email@example.com.