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Twice the heart: Girl surviving after heart transplants

May 1, 2013

Rachel Doseck

CELINA — Students are raising money to help pay for a classmate’s heart transplant with a 5K called “Find the Beat Again” at Wright State University (WSU) Lake Campus at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Friends of WSU student Rachel Doseck planned the event to help her in some way after an extended illness caused her body to reject her initial heart transplant.

Doseck, who had a heart transplant 11 years ago, received a second heart on Jan.10.

Doseck, of Botkins, explained when your heart stops a person does not automatically go unconscious. Actually they’re awake for a minute, and the last thing a person sees as they close their eyes are physicians and nurses running into your room with “crash carts,” which are what they call the unit transporting the electrical jump-starting paddles that they use to revive the heart.

She said they don’t always use the paddles, sometimes they inject a person with nitroglycerin.

 When she woke up, though, she didn’t remember them restarting her heart, and she was not even sore from the experience.

Also, she said, when a person heart stops in a hospital, they are not dead.

“When you code, you just—code,” Doseck said, shrugging her shoulders.

Doseck, 21, knows about hearts stopping because hers has multiple times, first at age 10, when she was diagnosed with the virus that injured her original heart. Then last fall her body rejected her transplant 10 years after she received it.

This winter, she planned her own funeral and decided whether to re-list herself for a second heart transplant, knowing that if she got a heart, it could have gone to another person possibly waiting for their first one.

“I had a hard time re-listing,” Doseck said “It was a really personal thing. I told myself I wouldn’t do that. I had 10 years. That’s all I was supposed to have. I was hoping for a lifetime.”

It was her college friends, she said, who convinced her to try to re-list.

The chances of her getting a second heart were so slim anyway, she said, because getting insurance to approve a second heart is difficult, finding a donor is difficult and being approved for the list when your body rejects a first heart is rare.

She said her friends and family convinced her to re-list, with the reasoning that if it happened it would be an act of God.

Doseck’s second heart was transplanted on Jan. 10, only nine days after she was added to the list.

“I don’t wait around,” Doseck said. “A heart balloon pump was keeping me alive. They said I had until the end of the weekend. They said I should plan my funeral.”

She did. She didn’t need it.

The cost of that transplant was $1.5 million, 80 percent of which was covered by insurance.

“That’s why I called my hospital room my penthouse,” Doseck said.

Before she got sick, she was working two jobs to pay for college, where she is pursuing a communication degree with the hope that one day she’ll be able to work for an organ donation organization.

Meanwhile, however, she had to leave both jobs for her transplant, and months later isn’t medically cleared to work.

While she’s living on the income she had from working before her health problems, her friends have decided to raise money for her hospital bills with a 5K run.

Doseck recounted the date of her first transplant the way other people reel off their birthdays without hesitation.

“On June 19, 2002 — it was super, super quick,” Doseck said.

Doseck had been on the transplant list for two weeks. She’d gone into the hospital for a stomach problem, possibly pneumonia, when her physicians discovered an enlarged heart.

The hospital stay was extended and then extended again, first to diagnose her with Coxsackie B5 virus, which damaged her heart. She then had to discover if she could survive on medication, then to try to get her a transplant.

She never knew the severity of what she was going through at that time, even though she coded and her heart stopping.

“Children’s hospitals are good at not telling you much,” Doseck said. “That’s a good thing. I was naive, I guess. I always thought I was going to get better.”

Post-transplant, she did get better, and had no problems until she again had stomach issues in 2011.

She, with the support of her Lake Campus friends, traveled to various hospitals and clinics trying to get a good diagnosis for 18 months. She told physicians it might be her heart, but CT scans and EKGs and echocardiograms showed no problem.

Her physicians instead told her she had a gastric problem and even tried diagnosing her with anorexia.

A simple blood draw would have told them, she said, that her body’s immune system was warring with her heart and had built up enough antigens to damage it.

She regrets physicians didn’t catch the problem sooner because they might have saved that heart. Instead her heart stopped, again, while she was in the hospital trying to get a diagnosis for the problem.

“They were kind of shocked,” Doseck said.

It’s been a more difficult recovery after the second transplant with more physical therapy.

However, Doseck said she knows how lucky she is. In fact, she tells people about organ donation, and speaks with children about donation, many of which, she said, don’t even know they could do something like that.

“I think it’s just part of me now,” Doseck said.

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