Patient Aleta Whitten
For heart transplant patient Aleta Whitten, going to the grocery store and not getting tired is wonderful. She spent 34 years of her life with a bad heart. Now she has her own apartment, attends college and wants to get her driver’s license.
Living with a bad heart was a struggle
Aleta always had to be careful with her health. “It was easy to catch colds, and I missed school a lot,” she said. When Aleta was in fifth grade, her doctor said she could no longer go to school.
“There were no home tutors, so I just read all I could,” Aleta said. “When I was 16, I earned my GED on the first try.”
Unfortunately, Aleta’s heart grew worse. “I had to take steroids – one time they took 30 pounds of fluid out of my belly,” she said. “It wasn’t great, but I learned over the years to do what you’ve got to do.”
Aleta received a new heart
In 2006, Aleta received a pacemaker and her name was placed on the transplant list. Finally, on July 21, 2007, she got her new heart.
“When I woke up the next morning, I felt like I’d been hit by a bus,” Aleta said, “but then I started feeling better. I could immediately tell something was different.”
Aleta was in the hospital about two months. “My poor body was worn out,” she said. “At one point, my kidneys shut down. I was on dialysis for five months.”
Still, she kept fighting. “I did whatever the doctors told me to do. For a long time after surgery I wore a mask and stayed away from crowds. But I kept improving.”
“Now I feel like I can do anything.”
Feeling good is no small thing to Aleta. “I’ve made a lot of friends and now can actually do stuff. Last August I finally got to see the beach!”
“Now I go every three months for labs and every six months to see my doctor,” Aleta said. “He told me I’m doing fantastic,” she said. “I can even have kids. I lived for 34 years without a good heart. Now I feel like I can do anything.”