Living on Borrowed Time from Day One
Dean was only 5 hours old when he underwent his first heart surgery. He had a rare birth defect known as transposition of the great arteries. This means the large vessels that carry blood from the heart aren’t connected properly.
Dean endured a series of surgical procedures over his first 3 years, and by the time he reached his mid-20s, he was the oldest-known person to have survived them.
Dean defied the odds until 2012, when, at age 46, he went into congestive heart failure. As his condition deteriorated, he was told death was imminent. His cardiologist recommended he be evaluated for a heart transplant at Temple.
After a full work-up, Temple’s Advanced Heart Failure team recognized that Dean needed immediate help. Soon after, Temple cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Kenji Minakata implanted a ventricular assist device (VAD) in Dean. This mechanical device helps the heart pump and acts as a “bridge to transplant” for patients who are extremely sick.
“It was such a life-changer,” Dean says. “Two days after the surgery, I was walking. It was a totally different world taking my first truly deep breath in at least 3 years. I felt like I could run. In fact, when I came home from the hospital a couple weeks later, I half-jogged up to my brother’s second-floor apartment. He couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it, either.”
The Start of a New Life
On April 10, 2017, 15 months after the VAD surgery, Dean received his lifesaving new heart. Momentous as both procedures were for him, he also credits the days leading up to and immediately after them with restoring his life.