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A Grateful Heart
Robert Brown continues to gain strength and stamina after his heart transplant.
Transplant recipient continues recovery at Fort Sanders Regional’s Cardiac Rehab Program
A cardiology team rushed to Robert Brown’s bedside at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center as he entered full ventricular tachycardia. His heart was dangerously out of rhythm and could barely function.
In that critical moment, Brown says he had what he can only describe as an out-of-body experience. From above, he says he witnessed urgent efforts to save him and then plainly heard a heavenly voice utter two words: “Not yet.”
A New Heart and a New Life
Brown, who eventually was transported to Nashville for a heart transplant, describes the entire process of transitioning from his old heart to his new one as nothing short of a miracle. He is continuing his journey to recovery under the care of Fort Sanders Regional’s cardiac rehabilitation team.
“Fort Sanders is a pillar of this community and coming here to do my rehab just made sense,” Brown says. “This is a really good group and they’re here making a difference in people’s lives and getting them back to where they need to be.”
Fort Sanders Regional’s cardiac rehab facility is a place where heart patients with a physician referral can exercise in a medically supervised setting. Brown is given a heart monitor to wear during exercise, and as he takes each step on the treadmill or pushes the handles on a recumbent bike, his activity is monitored by the cardiac rehab team.
“Coming here has just really been great because everyone’s so upbeat, so positive and encouraging,” Brown says.
Seated in a quiet room after a session of rehab exercises, Brown reflects on “matters of the heart” and expresses his gratitude to dedicated healthcare workers and the organ donor who preserved his life.
“I’ve got a second chance at life, and to be sitting here four months out from a heart transplant and just being able to talk and be mobile and energetic and normal is a blessing someone gave me,” Brown says.
The Journey to a New Heart
Brown’s first heart connection with Fort Sanders Regional occurred when he met with cardiac electrophysiologic Hitesh Mehta, MD, in 2018. Brown wanted Dr. Mehta’s recommendation about the best course of treatment for Brown’s irregular heartbeat, which was getting worse as a result of congestive heart failure.
After an ablation procedure – his second – Brown made a remarkable recovery and returned to normal life.
A Scary Setback
In the spring of 2023, Brown began experiencing a level of exhaustion at work that let him know something wasn’t right. He went back to the hospital, and it became evident that his heart was the source of the problem.
Brown was experiencing systolic heart failure, which means there was a problem in the left ventricle, and cardiogenic shock, which happens when the heart can’t pump enough blood and oxygen to the brain and other vital organs.
His condition worsened. He and his wife discussed funeral plans. A man of deep faith, Brown was ready to go whenever the time came, but he wanted to live.
When Dr. Mehta delivered the grim news that Brown’s heart was functioning at less than 20 percent, the only viable option was a heart transplant. Interventional cardiologist David Wood, MD, placed a balloon pump in Brown’s heart to stabilize him enough for transport to a Nashville hospital where the transplant was performed.
“I’ve been an organ donor ever since I got my license and never would have thought of needing an organ or needing to give an organ,” Brown says. “But when the time came, I was just thankful that a family made that decision, to give someone else a chance.”
Brown’s transplant took place in May 2023. He was well enough to be discharged just eight days later.
His transplant team had set an ambitious goal for him to be able to walk one mile six weeks after his discharge. Instead, he achieved that milestone in just four days.
Having been given a second chance at life, Brown faces each day with enthusiasm and a grateful heart.
He also encourages organ donation and being proactive when it comes to managing one’s health. Brown remembers that the first time he experienced a problem with his heart, he thought it was just a case of the flu.
“If you don’t feel right, seek medical attention and get checked, because we never know,” he says. “We all have so much to be thankful for. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to continue on with my life, and I would like to just thank the team here at Fort Sanders for all they’ve done for me.”
For information about award-winning heart care at Fort Sanders Regional, visit FSRegional.com/Services and tap Heart Care or talk to your doctor about a referral today.