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A heart transplant patient's journey

Augusta, Ga., resident Darren Bell struggled with congestive heart failure for several years. His sister Sheena said he was weak, constantly out of breath, and spent years in and out of the hospital.

“I was really worried about him,” she says.

Bell was referred to Piedmont's Advanced Heart Failure Center for a full evaluation and was soon implanted with a left ventricular assist device (LVAD).

The device helped Bell’s weakened heart pump blood throughout his body, allowing him to become stronger and gain muscle. Finally, Bell was strong enough to handle a heart transplant. When the right heart became available, Bell’s sister Sheena said they experienced a mixture of emotions – happiness, sadness and stress – but they were grateful to have made it to transplant day.

Surgery went off without a hitch.

“When we put the heart in, it instantly worked,” says David Dean, M.D., Bell’s heart transplant surgeon. “It went as well as it could possibly go and the results speak for themselves.

Dr. Dean says heart transplants are special because many people think that the heart is the soul of the body.

“There’s nothing like it – no organ beats or looks like it’s working, but when you put a new heart in and put the patient’s new blood in, the heart spontaneously starts.”

“It’s wild,” says Bell.

Learn more about heart transplants and Piedmont's organ transplant programs.

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