Alyssa Sandeen, the Mankato woman who was hours from death before receiving a heart in 1998, is gravely ill and back on the heart transplant waiting list.
“She’s still on life support, fully sedated,” said her father, Chris Sandeen, from St. Marys Hospital in Rochester. “Her heart is not recovering, so they’re figuring they’re going to have to do another transplant.”
Sandeen’s condition has deteriorated quickly since she first went to a hospital on Halloween night. She’d been feeling shortness of breath all week and went in for treatment Oct. 31.
Now, Chris Sandeen said, they’re trying to get the word out about organ donors to increase the chances that Alyssa will get another heart. He said the procedure will work similarly to the first time around. The surgery, doctors have told the family, will be similar but with a little more risk. There also will be more scarring for Alyssa.
Chris Sandeen said he was told it’s not uncommon for a person to get two or even three hearts in their lifetime. A donated heart, doctors told him, typically lasts about 15 years.
“She was almost there.”
He said Alyssa’s ordeal, obviously, has been tough on the family. But the fact she’s been placed on the transplant list means that this time around it’s already going better than the last time she needed a heart.
Back then, he said, they almost waited too long to get her on a heart and lung machine. Doctors told the family Alyssa probably wouldn’t have lived another day without a heart.
This time, before Alyssa was fully sedated, she was experiencing a lot of pain.
“She told the doctor, ‘I’ve had a heart transplant, I’ve had a kidney transplant, and that stuff was nothing compared to what I’m feeling now,’” Chris Sandeen said.
The pain she was experiencing was throughout her body. Chris Sandeen said he thought it was because of the poor blood flow from her failing heart.
This time, he said, the family is remaining optimistic because they’re not pressed for time. While Alyssa waits for a heart, she’ll remain at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester. After a transplant, she’d recover there for another three months.
Alyssa, who is 21 and had been living with her parents, was soon to be starting school again. She wants to enter the health care field, possibly as a nurse or nursing assistant.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are 2,700 heart transplants conducted annually.