INDIANAPOLIS — Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans and February is meant to bring awareness to the fact that your heart health can begin now because heart disease is preventable.
An Indianapolis man who just recently got a new heart says the day of his transplant is so important to him that he calls it his "new birthday."
"Around the 24th of August I had what I thought was acid reflux disease," Christopher Daily said. "[The doctor] sent me to the ER on the 26. As soon as I got in there, they figured out very quickly that I had had a heart attack."
The heart attack came a s a complete shock to 59-year-old Daily. The downtown Indianapolis resident lived what he thought was a relatively healthy lifestyle and did not know of any family history of heart disease.
"I had a tingling in my hand the Friday night before the heart attack actually happened and being up at almost 60 you have tweaks," Daily said.
Daily was in the beginning stages of heart failure with multiple episodes taking him in and out of the hospital. Although doctors placed him on a stint, the damage was already done.
"Heart disease is one of the most common causes for death," said Dr. Roopa Rao, a heart failure cardiologist at IU Health. "It is the number one cause for death. Chris thought he was healthy, he told me he was walking 10,000 steps a day. I think it came as a shock to him when he had a heart attack."
Dr. Rao was on Daily's care team while he was in the hospital.
"His heart started to dilate so I mean at that point when he was going into, his heart was going out of rhythm, we had to go for a transplant," Dr. Rao said. "It was the only way out. He actually, he was so sick, we had to support him on an external artificial bypass machine until the heart, a suitable heart would be available for him."
Daily was matched with a donor almost immediately after his doctors put him on the list for a heart transplant.
"People have to wait to get a heart and he was just on the heart transplant list for about an hour before he got the offer and that was very remarkable and I think he was lucky in a way," Dr. Rao said.
Daily was so ill, he did not even know he was getting a new heart until he woke up with one.
"I thought I was dead," Daily said.
But now, just three months post-transplant, Daily is moving on his own. Plus, along with diet and lifestyle changes, he has a new outlook on his life.
"I was a workaholic, we were driving into retirement and working towards that," he said. "And so I have gone back and started thinking about what’s my purpose, why am I here? Is it because I am a, what do I want on my headstone is a better way to put it. He worked hard and died. Or do I want it to be, he was a good father, a great husband or he gave to others, he had a good heart."
As he continues his recovery, Daily knows his survival is a pure gift, allowing him to continue his life as a husband and a father.
"I am convinced I would be dead without that transplant right now," Daily said. "But a tragedy happened to somebody, the donor. They, their whole family is impacted by this and you know they themselves are impacted by that. I want to make sure that I acknowledge that and thank them. Without them, I wouldn't have a second chance at life and I don't have an opportunity to figure out what my purpose is."
Dr. Rao says risk factors are having an unhealthy weight, smoking, increased alcohol consumption, stress and lack of exercise. She recommends that Hoosiers should check with their doctors and regularly screen for high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.