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  • iStock/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) -- A Texas woman is hoping to raise awareness about heart disease after she survived two near-fatal heart attacks, underwent a heart transplant and lost her mother to a heart attack in a single year.Kristen Patton, 41, suffered her first heart attack with no warning on Christmas Eve 2015. She had just brought home her fourth child after giving birth two days prior and the family enjoyed a normal Christmas Eve. She first noticed something was wrong when she was feeding her infant daughter."I had this horrible pain in my jaw ... it felt like it was drilling into my jawbone," Patton, of Austin, Texas, said. She instantly knew something was wrong and put her child back in the bassinet before calling for her husband."He came into the room to find me unresponsive and called 911," Patton said. By the time paramedics arrived she no longer had a heartbeat and they had to use a defibrillator to get her heart started again.Once she was at the hospital, the doctors were able to stabilize her heartbeat but they remained mystified to why her heartbeat had been dangerously irregular.Days later, after multiple tests and no clear answer, they planned to let her leave the hospital with a defibrillator vest that could shock her heart if she had another heart attack. But before they could prep her for that device, Patton had a second heart attack."It was the same exact pain and progression," Patton recalled. "But I felt like I was drowning and I could not get a breath."During the second heart attack doctors realized that Patton had a rare heart condition called spontaneous coronary artery dissection. The layered walls in her artery had partially torn, cutting off desperately needed oxygen to portions of the heart muscle, effectively killing the heart tissue.Dr. Mary Beth Cishek, a cardiologist at Seton Heart Institute in Austin Texas, treated Patton and said the heart was so damaged doctors knew she would need a transplant in the future."It was so extensive and damage to her heart was so great ... it was no longer able to support her body," Cishek said.To save her life doctors performed a triple bypass and attached Patton to a machine that can oxygenate blood called an ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation.)After the surgery, Patton remained unconscious at the hospital for weeks on life support. She could not be put on the transplant list because her kidneys started to fail and her heart could no longer effectively pump her blood. The ECMO machine and later a similar more portable device called an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) used to pump blood were the only way she could stay alive.After her diagnosis, Patton's doctors realized that her pregnancy, with the accompanying rise and fall in hormones, was the likely cause of the rare and dangerous heart condition."It's thought that the shifting hormones in a way may kind of loosen the cell to cell connections," Cishek explained.In late January, weeks after arriving in the hospital, Patton finally woke up, but was unable to speak due to a tracheotomy."It was a really horrible feeling to not be able to communicate effectively with the people around me," she said. "I also just felt pretty horrible ... I had lost all strength in my arms and legs."Slowly she was able to recover to the point that she could get into a rehab facility as she gained her strength. The LVAD meant she had to be connected to a battery 24 hours every day to keep her blood pumping through her body.Over the course of 2016 Patton continued to get stronger and was even able to return home where she went on a hike with her family and started to get back to her normal life. In November, her doctors were able to put her on the wait list for a heart transplant, giving her hope that a new heart could mean no longer relying on the LVAD to stay alive."You walk around with your cellphone in your hand waiting for your call," Patton said, explaining that every call from an unknown number was exciting.
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  • Lauren Walker/Facebook(THE WOODLANDS, Texas) -- One Texas couple is finally expecting not just one, but two babies, after struggling with infertility for two years.Lauren Walker shared her story, with a moving photo featuring two onesies and 452 needles used for her In-Vitro Fertilization treatments in a photo that has since gone viral on Facebook."We prayed for 953 days...452 Needles, 1000's of tears, 1 corrective surgery, 4 clomid/letrozole attempts, 2 IVF rounds, 3 failed transfers and & 1 Amazing GOD," the yoga instructor wrote as a caption before explaining her inspirational journey.Walker, 28, had been trying to have a child with her high school sweetheart, Garyt, since 2014."When we started, we knew off the bat that I was having issues," Walker told ABC News, "which I guess is a blessing."So Walker decided to undergo IVF treatments at Houston Fertility Institute "and we expected it to work." Still, she miscarried two embryos on Sept. 10, 2014. After another round of treatment, Walker miscarried two more embryos three months later."It's every mother's job to be able to protect their children and keep them safe," Walker said through tears. "And every time they kept putting them inside me I couldn't do it."The couple had one embryo left and decided to "give it one more shot," Walker said. But two days before Christmas in 2014, they discovered they still weren't pregnant.After two years of struggling with infertility, Lauren and Garyt Walker are welcoming twins in August.Walker said she made her husband take the call from her fertility nurse because she was too afraid to hear any more bad news."He went into the bedroom to take the call. He came out and just looked at me and he started to tear up [and said,] 'I'm so sorry, sweetie,'" Walker recalled. "We just held each other and I let out this blood curdling scream. I was completely broken."It didn't help that, by then, they had spent approximately $30,000 on treatments. Thankfully, their marriage was still in tact."We have heard stories of how going through infertility can really cause wear and tear in a marriage," Walker said. "[We decided] we come first. We need to make sure we are always taking care of each other first and foremost."After two years of struggling with infertility, Lauren and Garyt Walker are welcoming twins in August.The couple credits the strength of their marriage and their faith in God for giving them the courage to try to have a baby again.They moved to The Woodlands, Texas, from Houston, in May 2016. After taking out a $14,000 loan, they began treatments again last October.This time, they decided not to tell family and friends they were trying again to have a baby.Instead, they surprised their family with the news that Walker was indeed pregnant -- with twins -- just a week before Christmas by handing them the pregnancy test wrapped in a bow.Walker said that despite her long journey, she wouldn't want it any other way.After two years of struggling with infertility, Lauren and Garyt Walker are welcoming twins in August."Life happens the way that it's supposed to happen," she said. "Had this all happened the way I wanted to back in 2014, we would have different children and we would have a different life, and I know that these babies right now are meant to be here.""The reason why we were waiting so long is that we were waiting for them," she gushed.Walker is due in August and she said she's looking forward to introducing her twins, that she's named Duke and Diana Walker, to her 6-year-old goldendoodle, Fenway -- and of course they rest of their family."They're the first grandchildren," Walker said. "Everyone's just so excited."Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Ugreen/iStock/Thinkstock(NEWARK, N.J.) -- For decades, Lisa Salberg, 48, has grappled with complications from a dangerous form of heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. She had a stroke at 21 and multiple operations over the years to try and preserve her heart.After her heart began to fail, her doctors decided she need a transplant. She was placed on the organ donor list last November. Earlier this month, Salberg was matched to a new heart and underwent the life-saving transplant surgery.But, before she went into the operating room she had an unusual request for her surgeon: save the damaged heart.Salberg has been an activist for heart disease research and started the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association after her sister died from the same heart disease she was diagnosed with at 12 years old. In total, five of her family members have been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscles enlarge and cause the ventricles to thicken.According to the Cleveland Clinic, between 600,000 and 1.5 million people are afflicted with the disorder in the U.S., or one in 500 people.Salberg said she wanted her damaged heart to become a tool to raise awareness of the condition and educate others."We were friends for 48 years," Salberg said about her heart.Her transplant surgeon at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Dr. Margarita Camacho, said she was surprised by the request."I've never had anybody ask that, the first thing I thought was how wonderful she wanted to do that," Camacho told ABC News.Four days after her surgery, Salberg's husband and Camacho presented Salberg with her original heart, which had been preserved by freezing. After nearly a lifetime of hearing her heart beat extra loudly in her chest, she said she was surprised to see what the damaged organ looked like in person."I was struck by the density and the weight to it," Salberg said. "It was really, really heavy."While Salberg said she initially greeted her damaged heart with a profanity, she also felt grateful that it had been functional long enough to get her through until her transplant."I said, 'Thank you, you worked hard for 48 years,'" Salberg told ABC News. "It [was] with me every moment of the day of my life, it was nice to be able to say goodbye."Salberg said that, after the transplant, she instantly felt a difference in her energy and overall well-being. The renewed energy has pushed her to focus on the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association and help others who are afflicted with the same conditions she has."The reality clicked in I have an entire community of people who feel badly," Salberg said, referring to other people who have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. "I have an entire life ahead of me to find ways to improve their health and I'm doubling down. You ain't seen nothing yet."Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Jochen Sands/iStock/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- A massive "kidney chain" that spanned multiple states has helped save the lives of four people in need of kidney transplants, including one Florida police officer.Officials at the Florida Hospital Transplant Institute in Orlando said they performed two of the four transplants, including one on a deputy who had been living with kidney disease for years."This transplant chain was made possible by heroes —- people willing to give their kidney in order to save another person's life," Dr. Bobby Nibhanupudy, medical director of Florida Hospital’s abdominal transplant program, said in a statement yesterday. "Thousands of people are waiting for life-saving transplants. This paired exchange is proof that you could be a match to someone —- maybe across the country -— and become their hero, too."Nibhanupudy said that it can take years to get a new kidney if a patient has to wait to be selected from the transplant list.Seminole County Deputy Blayne Badura had been on dialysis multiple times a week until his transplant earlier this year. Another police officer, Bobby Draughon, of the Oviedo Police Department, worked in the same area as Badura. The two became acquaintances on the job."He would step out on traffic stops with me and back me up," Draughon said during a press conference yesterday. Draughon said he knew Badura was sick but hadn't realized how bad his condition was until he saw a GoFundMe page his wife had set up."At the end it said if you happened to have a kidney to donate that would be great as well," Draughon recalled. "I realized this is something to look into."Unfortunately, Draughon wasn't a match, but doctors at the hospital asked him if he would be willing to take part in a national "kidney chain."The idea of a kidney chain, or paired exchange, has become popular in recent years as a way to match willing, living donors with recipients, even if they are strangers. The chain starts with a patient who has a loved one or other person willing to be a donor, but is not a match. Doctors can then try to find other patients in a similar position so they can "swap" donors and receive matching kidneys more quickly.In this case, five people were willing donors for four patients in need, creating the large kidney chain. Badura ultimately received his kidney from Lauren Gau, 26, who had wanted to donate to her mother, but was not a match.Because she took part in the kidney chain, she was able to donate to Badura and her mother was able to receive a kidney from one of the other participants."It’s a complete miracle," Badura said during the press conference. Draughon's kidney was donated to another patient on the West Coast and their pledged donor has offered to be a donor for a fifth patient in need of a kidney.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • frank600/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An avian flu outbreak in the U.K. is just the latest to erupt across the globe, worrying health experts about the possibility that the virus could become more widespread.On Thursday, U.K. officials confirmed a fifth area in the country has been hit with the H5N8 strain of the avian flu since December. The strain has been spread from wild birds to farmed poultry, but has yet to affect humans, according to the U.K. Department of the Environment.There have been more than 40 countries reporting outbreaks of different strains of the avian flu since last November, according to World Health Organization officials.With the new avian flu outbreaks popping up in recent months, health experts have been increasingly concerned that one or more of the various strains of avian flu could mutate, increasing the risk of a dangerous new flu that could spread quickly across the globe. Normally the virus spreads among birds, often transmitted long distances by wild birds that migrate. In rare cases people in close contact to the birds become ill and the virus rarely spreads from person to person.Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the public health community is increasingly concerned that the virus could potentially mutate."The concern always is that they could pick up a gene that permits that kind of flu to spread readily from person to person," Schaffner said. Currently "bird flu by itself cannot do that."However, Schaffner said in recent years the medical community has developed better surveillance technology to find new outbreaks more easily."We detect more of the outbreaks and characterize them even more precisely than 10 years ago," he explained.On Monday, World Health Organization said they were on "high alert" due to the avian flu outbreaks and the possibility of mutation.During an address to the WHO executive board on Monday, WHO Director Margaret Chan explained one form of the virus first detected in humans in 2015 was created "by gene-swapping among four different viruses." She urged all countries to closely watch for avian flu cases in both birds and humans to stop any new easily transmitted strain of the virus from spreading."We cannot afford to miss the early signals," Chan said.Multiple strains of the avian flu have spread through a diverse range of countries in recent months including Algeria, Finland, China and the United Kingdom, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. While the avian flu rarely affects people, it can have devastating consequences when it does. In China the mortality rate has hovered around 38 percent for the more than 1,000 people infected with a strain of avian flu since 2013, according to Chan.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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