Heart transplant

Strong’s Hospital Celebrates 300th Heart Transplant

ROCHESTER, NY – A Western New York woman is celebrating a new lease on life after a heart transplant last month at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. Denise Abbey’s life-saving intervention also marked an important milestone for the hospital.

Abbey’s heart transplant in June marked the 300th heart transplant performed at the hospital.

Abbey is a mother of two sons. She is a former nurse and social worker who also raised a nephew. Almost two years ago, the Buffalo woman began to feel ill. His heart was failing.

“And the Lord told me, not yet,” Abbey said. “He wasn’t ready for me.”

Doctors in his hometown tried several treatments, including quadruple bypass surgery and a pacemaker, but his condition deteriorated. Eventually the doctors told her she needed a heart transplant.

“It was breathtaking,” she said. “I’m like, there’s nothing to think about. We’re going to do what we have to do, because I want to live.

After several trips and treatment at Buffalo hospitals, Abbey ended up at Strong Memorial Hospital, home to upstate New York’s only heart transplant center. The doctors didn’t know if she would pull through.

“I knew life was leaving me,” Abbey said. “I prayed to God. “Lord, please. You know my boys still need me.

Seven million people in the United States live with some form of heart failure, but only 4,000 donor hearts become available each year.

“I think it’s important to note that advanced heart failure is a very big problem,” said Dr. Igor Gosev, heart surgeon and heart transplant program director at Strong. “It’s underrated.”

Gosev led a team through the delicate operation in June. A donor heart replaced the one Abbey was born with.

“It’s amazing how this heart transplant therapy has evolved over the past 20 years,” Gosev said. “With certain drugs, heart transplant patients live longer and we are truly changing lives.”

A few weeks after receiving her new heart, she returned home to her family.

“The first time I heard my heart I cried,” Abbey said. “Because the heart is so strong.

Doctors say 8,600 people are waiting for various organ transplants in New York State. This number includes a great need for heart donors. The figure far exceeds the number of organs donated each year, according to the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network. Anyone 16 years of age or older can register with the New York State Donation Registry.

Abbey is still immunocompromised and, like all heart transplant patients, she has to rely on medication to make sure the body doesn’t reject the new heart.

Through it all, she is doing well.

“Oh, I feel wonderful,” she said. “Like, I feel really, really good. My brain wants to go, go, go. My body just needs to catch up.

Abbey doesn’t know where the donor’s heart came from. One day, she hopes to be able to thank the donor’s family.

“I will always take care of this heart,” she said. “Because the blessing I received will never be taken for granted.”

Faced with a life or death scenario, Abbey now has a lot to look forward to – things she wasn’t sure she would ever see. Things like college degrees, marriages, and grandchildren.

Sometimes you almost have to die to realize how much you really want to live.

“It was a blessing to have a new lease on life,” she said. “I’m so grateful.”