The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 4, 2013

Sandeen recovering from heart attack

By Robb Murray
Free Press Staff Writer

— In a way, she got lucky.

Alyssa Sandeen had traveled to the Mayo Clinic New Year’s Day for an appointment to check on her ailing heart. While there ...

“She started to feel real strange,” said her father, Chris Sandeen. “She told my wife and doctors, ‘I need to go to the hospital. Something’s wrong.’”

They drove the six blocks to St. Marys Hospital where they discovered she’d had a mild heart attack.

“Years ago they told us if Alyssa ever has a heart attack, we’ll never know it because she won’t feel it,” Sandeen said.

Why? Because when a heart is removed from one person, nerves are severed. When it’s placed into the torso of another, they can’t reattach them. So the pain signals that may be sent to the brain in the body of a person living with their original heart don’t get sent in the body of person living with a transplant heart.

On Thursday she had what her father called one of her worst days.

“She felt like she was gonna die yesterday morning,” Sandeen said. “She asked for a priest to come in.”

Sandeen said that night he’d gone back home to Mankato because he’s battling a cold and didn’t want to make Alyssa any sicker. Then he received a text message from her.

“She said ‘I would love it if you could come here. Wear a mask.’ I told the twins, ‘Let’s go.’ It seemed like she was in pain. But she was smiling.”

By Friday, she was feeling a little better and looking forward to returning to Mankato.

She remains a status 1B on the transplant list.

Heart trouble hasn’t been the only setback for Sandeen.

When her heart originally failed in November and she underwent CPR for two hours, doctors inserted an IV on her chest. But something went wrong with the needle and IV fluid seeped under her skin, leaving a large portion of chest blackened.

For that, she’s undergoing something called mist treatment, which uses liquid mist and sound-wave technology to encourage skin regeneration.

When Alyssa was 8 she 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 said she had less than a 5 percent chance of survival.

She likely had a day or so to live when a donor heart became available from a 5-year-old Virginia boy who died in a car accident.

A benefit for Alyssa is planned for 1-7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, at the Kato Ballroom.