• July 31, 2014

Woman awaits heart transplant

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Posted: Friday, April 25, 2014 4:30 am

The last time Shyra Chandler, 28, left Texas was when she went to Las Vegas in 2012.

Now that she’s at the very top of Scott & White’s heart transplant list, she can’t afford to be more than two hours away by car because she never knows when “the call” is going to come in.

“Someone has to die for me to live,” she said.

At age 21, she suffered her first heart attack.

“I was sitting at home and started to experience excruciating chest pains that I had never felt before,” she said. “When EMS arrived, they suspected it was a panic attack because of my age, but when they did an EKG on me in the hospital, 20 doctors swarmed into the rooms asking me so many questions.”

The first question was what types of illegal drugs was she taking because medical professionals could not understand why an otherwise healthy 21-year-old was having a heart attack.

After suffering three more heart attacks when she was 22 and 24, enduring pneumonia and being on life support for a month, Chandler was diagnosed with end-stage congestive heart failure.

“The last thing I remember was hearing the doctors say they were going to intubate me,” she said. “The next thing I remember was waking up a month later with my family at my bedside.”

Doctors told her family “not to expect any positive outcomes” because they didn’t expect the 24-year-old to survive.

“She is a living, breathing, walking miracle,” said her mother, Debbie Rodi. “She has stents within stents and has defied all expectations. I know when we get that call, it will save her life, but I pray for that donor’s family every day.”

To make her situation more complicated, she can only accept an 0 positive heart. People with 0 positive blood are universal donors but are not universal recipients.

In 2011, she was implanted with a left ventricular assist device, which took over for the left side of her heart, which was no longer functioning because of her heart attacks.

She now relies on this machine and two 14-volt batteries to keep her alive while she awaits a heart transplant.

In February, she suffered a stroke, forcing her to undergo rehabilitation. Now she is status 1A on the transplant waiting list, meaning she’s at the very top.

Fundraiser

Chandler dreams of hearing her heartbeat once again and being able to go swimming, something she hasn’t done since 2009. For now, she’s thankful for the slight, high-pitch buzzing of the LVAD machine that pumps her heart — the only thing keeping blood flowing into her heart and keeping her alive.

The average heart transplant costs nearly $1 million.

And that’s only the beginning. Even with health coverage, which will cover the cost of the transplant itself, she faces significant expenses related to the surgery. For the rest of her life, she will need follow-up care and daily anti-rejection medications costing more than $5,000 a month, which are critical to her survival after the transplant.

To help alleviate the financial burden, Chandler turned to the National Foundation for Transplants for assistance with some of these financial burdens. The nonprofit organization helps patients raise funds to pay for transplant-related expenses.

“I hope this is the year when a donor is found for Shyra,” said Kay Horne, NFT fundraising consultant. “Like everyone else at NFT, I want her to raise the funds she needs to afford her lifesaving care so she can focus on her health and happiness, not the bills.”

On Saturday, volunteers will have a barbecue dinner, auction and raffle at The Canteen, 607 A E. Veterans Memorial Blvd. in Harker Heights.

The event, which begins at noon, is free to attend, but donations are appreciated. The raffle will go on all day and the auction will begin at 5 p.m. Beginning at 6 p.m., barbecue plates will be served and Catfish Daniels will perform.

Contact Rodi at 254-317-6707 or dsclonts@yahoo.com.

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