The Journey of a Heart

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Healthwire Update: Emory Healthcare

After an Emory heart transplant patient came back from the brink of death, he decided “this new heart and me are going to make a difference.”#

By Rhonda Mullen

Joe Persichetti thinks of his life as a journey”from robust health to near death and back again. It”s has been more than five years now since he received a heart transplant at Emory.

Persichetti was a busy working father and husband when he first encountered heart problems. He managed AT&T”s maintenance group, coached his sons” baseball and football teams, and enjoyed holidays with his wife and their brood of five. He also was active in the community and at church.

But at age 40, Joe Persichetti saw his life take a dramatic turn. He had his first heart attack, followed by another when he was 47, and a third at age 53. His youngest son turned 12 soon after his father”s third heart attack”the same age Persichetti was when he saw his own dad die at the breakfast table of a heart attack.

Despite several more operations for bypass and installation of a pacemaker and a defibrillator, Persichetti”s heart continued to fail. He had to retire from his job of 37 years. He lost 64 pounds, his average blood pressure dropped so low that he had no energy to move, his kidney function slowed. Every other weekend for more than a year he was in the hospital so fluid could be drained from his heart.
He vividly remembers the day when his Emory cardiologist told him he needed a transplant. “Andy Smith sat me down and said, “You need a new heart.” It was a shock. But he told me, “Listen, it”s okay, we”re going to take care of you.” And it was. I always felt like he was treating me, not the disease.”#

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