Just months after suffering a massive heart attack and within 72 hours of being admitted to the hospital because of her fast-deteriorating condition, Yvonne Fleming was blessed with a new heart. In the latest installment of Northwell Health’s podcast series Health Story, she explains how the transplant surgery – a medical first on Long Island – left her ecstatic to start her new life.
After Ms. Fleming’s November heart attack, she had trouble breathing; fluid filled her lungs. When she arrived at the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital at North Shore University Hospital in February, no one knew what fate would bring. But her wish for a new heart came true sooner than anyone could have imagined.
Brian Lima, MD, surgical director of Northwell Health’s transplant program, said he was made for exactly this moment. “Nothing beats that magical moment when you reintroduce blood into this heart that was in a bucket – you know, an ice cooler – which traversed hundreds of miles and then starts beating on its own,” said Dr. Lima, who performed the 70-minute transplant surgery on February 19. “It just instinctively knows what to do. Nothing beats that. It was unbelievably perfect how it all worked out.”
Once she awoke, Ms. Fleming, 63, of Brooklyn, grew emotional – and knew she was ready to restart her life. “I’ve cried happy tears ever since February 19,” said Ms. Fleming, who was released from the hospital with a joyful press conference less than one month later. “That’s my new life day. My new heart connected with my body. It started connecting with my spirit. It started connecting with my soul. We were becoming one and that was such a good feeling – and it’s beautiful.”
Listen to the podcast: To hear the episode, click here
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Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, more than 650 outpatient facilities and nearly 15,000 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 66,000 employees – 15,000-plus nurses and 4,000 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.edu.