Friday, August 12, 2016

Firm footing

A HEARTY JOURNEY: Maynard after ascending the final 4,000-foot peak before receiving a heart transplant.

A few days after the Fourth of July, 70-year-old Jeff Maynard of New Hampshire climbed the steps of the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown to celebrate a personal independence day. Just weeks before, he had a heart transplant at the MGH.

Tackling an uphill challenge is nothing new for Maynard, says MGH cardiac surgeon David D’Alessandro, MD. Before his transplant earlier this summer, Maynard managed to complete a feat some outdoor enthusiasts work toward their whole lives – hiking all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot peaks.

“Jeff is an inspiration to me,” says former MGH cardiac surgeon Joshua Baker, MD.  “After a devastating heart attack five years ago, we implanted a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to help his heart in pumping blood to the rest of his body.”

Still, Maynard says doctors cautioned him it was only a temporary fix, describing the LVAD as a “bridge to transplant.”

“I viewed it as a way to remain as healthy as possible while waiting for a heart,” says Maynard.

The former operations manager of the Wildcat Mountain Ski Area started off with familiar trails in his backyard of Jackson, New Hampshire and ultimately moved on to higher summits. “I’d love to use my experience to speak with other people about life with an LVAD,” says Maynard. “It is possible to stay active.”

In late May, Maynard put hiking on hold for a few weeks. He underwent the successful transplant surgery and within four days he was up and walking.

“When you see a patient as motivated as Jeff, it really makes both the physical and emotional recovery from transplant that much easier,” says D’Alessandro.

Those early weeks of recovery involved strolls around the hospital corridors and then a short stay in nearby Back Bay. Never content to stay on flat land, Maynard says he called his daughter to join him for the July 8 climb in Charlestown.

On cell phone video, Abigail Maynard recorded her father peering out one of the monument’s windows, pausing to thank his care team and pointing to the MGH in the distance.

Read more articles from the 08/12/16 Hotline issue.

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