The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 14, 2012

(UPDATED) Alyssa Sandeen, heart transplant patient from 1998, clinging to life in Rochester

By Robb Murray
The Free Press

ROCHESTER — Alyssa Sandeen, the Mankato woman who captured Mankato's attention with her successful heart transplant story in 1998, is back in a Rochester hospital and clinging to life, her father said.

She was hositalized in Rochester after her heart stopped twice Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon, they were wondering if Sandeen -- who had undergone CPR for two and a half hours to revive her failing heart -- had sustained brain damage.

But as the night went on, Sandeen began to show signs of progress.

"Racheal, Alyssa's sister, arrived from a long journey from Fargo to Rochester," Christopher Sandeen, Alyssa's father, said in an email to The Free Press. "With the sound of her voice, a spark may have been lit in Alyssa as her eyes opened; however, the medical staff stated it was probably just a reflex action. We still did not know if there was brain function. About a half hour later, we were informed that Alyssa did do some more movement. This time, however, it was in response to some commands! This hopefully means that there is little to no brain damage."


She remains on a heart and lung machine. Her heart is not working at all and she's on dialysis to clear toxins from her body. Doctors have also lowered her body temperature to control swelling caused by her body's rejection of the heart.

"We still have a long road ahead, so please keep your prayers coming," Sandeen's email said. "Through Alyssa's story, we hope she encourages others to sign up to be an organ donor. Please help us spread the word for donor awareness."

In 1998, Alyssa was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle that caused her heart to grow to four times its normal size. Doctors at the time emphasized she had a less than 5 percent chance at survival.

When news of the available heart came on Sept. 4, she probably had only a day or so left to live.

Alyssa received the heart from a 5-year-old Virginia boy who died in a car accident.