After 15 years of treating my cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure, when I told Dr. Robert Siegel my energy level seemed to be declining, he knew me well enough to know I was serious. Standard testing did not show a significant change, but Dr. Siegel did not take my concern lightly. I believe he was sent from God to take care of me all these years and to be a conduit for my ultimate healing.
After our first 3 years together, I began to have frequent episodes of atrial fibrillation, a common occurrence with an enlarged heart. Dr. Siegel referred me to an electrophysiologist, Dr. Charles Swerdlow, a leader in the field. Four pacemaker/defibrillators and MANY cardioversions later, my heart would no longer stay in sinus rhythm. The irregular heartbeat decreased my stamina to even less than before. Dr. Siegel and Dr. Swerdlow became extended family members and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center became an admittedly morbid second home.
I had lived at that level for about 3 years before that day in Dr. Siegel’s office – going along okay but seeming to have less and less energy and stamina. I had no idea that what he would say would ultimately change my life. He told me that he did not have an answer for me but that the entire transplant team from UCLA had just joined Cedars. “Transplant?”, I said. “I don’t think we’re at that point, are we?” “Well,” he said, “maybe they have some new treatment ideas. These guys are good.” I took the name and number for the office and made the appointment.
The appointment in early March was with Dr. Patel. He had looked over my history and at my latest echocardiogram. I wish I remembered more details about that day, but all I really remember is that he suggested I go through the pre-transplant testing to see if I was a candidate. “Really?” I asked. “You’re not feeling well?” he said, his eyes questioning me. I nodded. He continued, “There’s no other treatment for your condition. You may as well get tested. What do you have to lose?”