Friday, October 9, 2015

Pedaling the path to a healthy future

Strope and his daughter Sara after completing their 200-mile bike ride

Completing a 200-mile bike ride in four days is no easy feat, especially not for a heart transplant recipient. However that is exactly what Harold Strope did to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his lifesaving surgery at the MGH. On Oct. 1 – accompanied by his daughter Sarah, their friends and more than 50 fellow biking enthusiasts – Strope cycled the same route that he’d been taken in an ambulance years before from Albany, New York to Boston.

In 1994, after initially being treated for bronchitis, Strope was diagnosed with congestive heart failure at age 47. “This diagnosis meant my dad was on a one-way path that couldn’t be changed by any course of exercise, rest, antibiotics or steroids,” says Sara. “The only way to improve his deteriorating health was a heart transplant – and we immediately started researching the best transplant programs and the waiting list evaluation criteria. That’s when we found the MGH.”

At the time, the MGH was one of only a few hospitals in the Northeast evaluating patients for transplants. By fall of 1995, Strope’s condition had deteriorated – his heart was functioning at less than 10 percent efficiency – and he became the second person on the donor waiting list.

Strope was matched with a heart on Oct. 27, 1995 and underwent surgery, performed by Joren Madsen, MD, DPhil, now director of the MGH Transplant Center, while under the care of Marc Semigran, MD, director of the MGH Heart Failure/Cardiac Transplant Program.

“It wasn’t immediately back to life as we had known it after my transplant,” says Strope. “I learned to be cautious about new things, like infections, that were now a problem because of my suppressed immune system. I knew it would take time to rebuild my strength.”

Strope and his family are grateful for the care he received at the MGH and they now are working to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation while celebrating more than two decades of heart health. Strope’s family have embraced his passion for cycling, a newfound joy since his retirement, and community fundraising efforts to support the MGH Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Program at the MGH Corrigan Minehan Heart Center, with a focus on family support services.

“Harold’s remarkable health since his transplant 20 years ago represents the product of his adoption of a healthy lifestyle, the support of his family, and the teamwork and dedication to patient care of members of the MGH Cardiac Transplant Program,” says Semigram.

Says Strope, “Thanks to my new heart, I am an active man who watched my son graduate from medical school, followed my daughter’s climb up Mount Kilimanjaro and traveled the U.S. with my wife. Organ donation, combined with the care I received at the MGH, has given me this chance.”

Read more articles from the 10/09/15 Hotline issue.

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