Living Donation

Heart Transplant Patient Stories

Our patient stories profile those who have had heart transplants at UPMC . Although everyone’s care experience is unique, we hope that sharing these stories will help prospective patients and their families better understand these procedures and their potential impact on patients’ lives.

Note: These patients' treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.

Laura Baker: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Laura Baker

Laura Baker lived with heart muscle disease for 20 years. When her health took a dramatic turn for the worse in 2014, she learned she needed a heart transplant. As a busy mom of three, Laura hoped to stay at home with her children until her transplant instead of living in a hospital during the wait. She looked for an experienced transplant center that could help her do so, and her search led her to the UPMC Heart Transplant Program.

Read Laura Baker's story

Aaron Card: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Aaron Card

Aaron Card was born with a heart defect and had his first heart transplant at 12 years old. In 2015, he started having heart complications again where he developed coronary artery disease. He then received the news that he needed a second heart transplant. Aaron received his second heart transplant in 2017. ​Being a loved one to his wife and daughter, as well as a firefighter, Aaron is focusing on getting better each day.

Read Aaron Card's story

Jeff Carpenter: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Jeff Carpenter

Jeff Carpenter was on the heart transplant list when his fifth heart attack sent him into cardiac arrest and he was flown by paramedics to UPMC Presbyterian. There, doctors stabilized Jeff and implanted a ventricular assist device (VAD) to help him recover enough to undergo a transplant. Jeff got a new heart in November 2013 and is enjoying life with his family.

Read Jeff Carpenter's story

Ben Collins: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Ben Collins

In 1995, Ben Collins, a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh, noticed that he was having increasing difficulty going up a flight or two of stairs at the Cathedral of Learning. After a thorough evaluation, doctors discovered Ben had ventricular tachycardia, a condition that resulted in his heart racing at dangerously high rates. Since his transplant, Ben has recovered nicely and taken up running, and participated in many races.

Read Ben Collins's story

Phyllis Esau: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Phyllis Esau

Shortly after undergoing chemotherapy to successfully fight breast cancer, Phyllis began noticing that it was hard for her to carry things. She also had shortness of breath, and was tired. She was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, but her heart was in good enough condition to continue with her life normally while getting regular checkups from her cardiologist. Over time, though, Phyllis's heart continued to weaken and it was determined that she would need a heart transplant.

Read Phyllis Esau's story

Paul Jewell: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Paul Jewell

Paul Jewell was just 36 years old when he learned he had an enlarged heart and irregular heart rhythm. He managed his condition with medication for nearly 10 years, but in 1993, he developed severe congestive heart failure. Paul received a ventricular assist device, or VAD, and spent five months in the hospital before undergoing a heart transplant. Today, he and his wife live in Erie and he takes every opportunity to spread the word about the importance of organ donation.

Read Paul Jewell's story

Elex Jordan: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Elex Jordan

Elex Jordan's journey to a heart transplant began in 2007 with his first heart attack. Over the years, he managed his condition with the help of medication, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, and his cardiac care team. In 2014, Elex's cardiologist determined he needed a heart transplant. Four years after his successful transplant, Elex has returned to the active, engaged grandfather and husband that he was. Elex and his wife Diane remain grateful for the top-notch care they received at UPMC and the life-changing medicine that offered Elex a new lease on life.

Read Elex Jordan's story

Tom Meshanko: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Tom Meshanko

In 1997, Tom Meshanko experienced some chest soreness and tingling in his left arm. Knowing his family had a history of heart disease, he went to see his doctors at UPMC Shadyside right away. Doctors told him he’d had a heart attack and his heart had suffered massive damage. Since his transplant, Tom has remained active, participating in the Transplant Games of America, and even took a hot air balloon ride.

Read Tom Meshanko's story

Andrea McConaughy: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Andrea McConaughy

Andrea McConaughy learned she had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a type of heart muscle disease, as a teenager. By her mid-20s, Andrea’s heart had become so weak that she needed a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, to keep her alive. Andrea spent six months in the hospital before receiving a heart transplant. She now lives in North Carolina with her family and will celebrate the 20th anniversary of her transplant this year.

Read Andrea McConaughy's story

Tom Piccione: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Tom Piccione

Tom Piccione, a judge and father of five, lived with advanced heart disease for years before receiving a heart transplant at UPMC in 2014. His daughter, UPMC cardiologist Beth Piccione, MD, chose to study cardiology to help her dad and has been by his side every step of the way. Today, Tom is healthy and enjoying life with his family, including nine grandchildren. Ever grateful to his donor, Tom hopes his experience will inspire others to consider organ donation.

Read Tom Piccione's story

Phil Rostek: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Phil Rostek

When Phil Rostek arrived at UPMC Presbyterian with a failing heart, he felt like he was right where he needed to be. He’d always loved Oakland, and his confident, compassionate doctors put him at instantly at ease. Phil underwent a heart transplant in 2008. Today, he remains grateful to everyone who cared for him both before and after his surgery.

Read Phil Rostek's story

Bob Shoup: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Bob Shoup

It was during hunting season in 1985 when Bob Shoup, then 27, started experiencing fatigue and shortness of breath. A few days before Christmas, Bob’s arm went numb, and he couldn’t speak — signs of a stroke. Several weeks passed and Bob still had no energy, he couldn’t walk across the room without loss of breath. A chest x-ray revealed that his heart was enlarged due to congestive heart failure. Over the 27 years since his initial heart transplant, Bob has been able to lead a primarily healthy, normal life, and watch his family grow—something he wasn’t always sure would be possible.

Read Bob Shoup's story

Emil Steinmetz: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Emil Steinmetz

Emil Steinmetz lived an active life, enjoying pickup basketball games with his sons and spending time with his family. When a sudden heart attack revealed deterioration in his heart, Emil began his journey with the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. Through careful monitoring by his doctors and the assistance of a pacemaker, Emil was able to continue living his life. Eventually though, the deterioration became severe enough to place Emil on the heart transplant waiting list. In 2016, 12 years after his initial heart attack, Emil received his heart transplant. He forged a special bond with his heart donor's family and continues to celebrate his gift of renewed life with his wife, children, and five grandchildren.

Read Emil Steinmetz's story

George Stout: Heart Transplant Patient Story

George Stout

George Stout's battle with cardiovascular issues began with a massive heart attack at age 45. Knowing he had a family history of heart problems, George sought care with Bryan Donohue, MD of UPMC. In the years that followed, George experienced 3-4 additional heart attacks, a bypass, and numerous other procedures. When a diagnosis of heart failure and atrial fibrillation came in 2017, George thought he was out of options. Luckily, the UPMC Advanced Heart Failure team felt confident they could help George. 27 years after his initial heart attack, George received a new heart. He now spends his days shag dancing with his wife and taking trips to North Carolina, enjoying his newfound lease on life.

Read George Stout's story

Brandy Sweeney: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Brandy Sweeney

In 2014, Brandy Sweeney was enjoying life as a mother to two young boys and a baby girl on the way. Shortly before the birth of her daughter, however, Brandy was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy - a type of congestive heart failure that primarily affects mothers during their last month of pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. Brandy's doctors recognized her need for the best cardiovascular care and transferred her to UPMC, where doctors placed a left ventricular assist device - or LVAD - to aide Brandy's heart while she waited for a transplant. Three years after receiving her new heart, Brandy is grateful for her second chance at life and loves being an active and involved mother to her three young children.

Read Brandy Sweeney's story

Stacey Vernallis: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Stacey Vernallis

When Stacey Vernallis, a fit, active trial attorney and mom of three, came home from a business trip with a cough, the last thing she suspected was a heart problem. Just months later, Stacey learned she had cardiomyopathy and was in congestive heart failure. To support her heart until a transplant, Stacey received a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD. Stacey received a heart transplant in July 2014 and works every day to regain her active lifestyle as much as possible. She’s also actively involved in spreading the word about the importance of organ donation.

Read Stacey Vernallis's story

Mary Ann Wahl: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Mary Ann Wahl

Prior to a life-changing transplant at UPMC Presbyterian, Mary Ann Wahl’s heart condition prevented her from experiencing the many joys of raising her daughter, Katy. These disappointments and struggles were caused by restrictive cardiomyopathy — a disorder in which the heart chambers are unable to fill properly with blood because of stiffness in the heart. After a three-month recovery period, she felt fantastic, began walking four miles a day, and made plans to embrace life with her husband, Bob, and, of course, her daughter.

Read Mary Ann Wahl's story

Michelle Hagerty: Heart Transplant Patient Story

Michelle Hagerty

After living with a diseased heart for most of her life, Michelle Hagerty needed a heart transplant. Trusting in the care of her transplant team, Michelle received a second chance at life.

Read Michelle Hagerty's story