- Associated Press - Saturday, December 24, 2016

CHILTON, Wis. (AP) - This Christmas, April Miron is happy - and lucky - to be alive.

Since this spring, the Chilton woman has had three open heart surgeries, including a transplant, after battles with sarcoidosis and leg and lung blood clotting that date back to 2010, USA Today Network-Wisconsin (https://post.cr/2ifRUEZ ) reported.

She’s endured weeks-long hospital stints and a handful of emergency room visits, traveled back and forth to Madison’s UW Hospital countless times and survived an 11-hour transplant surgery.

“I’m a fighter, I’m strong-willed,” said Miron, 35, the mother of a 9-year-old boy.

Reflecting on her health on a recent Wednesday afternoon in her home, Miron said she’s hopeful her ordeal will encourage more people to become organ donors.

“There’s a long list of people who need them,” she said. “If I wasn’t given this chance, I would not be here.”

More than 4,000 people nationwide are currently waiting for a heart transplant, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

Miron’s health problems began in 2010 when doctors diagnosed her with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease where clusters of cells grow in lungs, lymph nodes and other parts of the body. A steroid regimen helped to control her symptoms.

But in 2014, Miron began to have problems breathing. She felt fatigued and was unable to walk long distances. She thought it was allergies, but doctors later found blood clots in her legs and lungs. Doctors inserted a defibrillator inside her body that October.

Her health remained stable until the end of 2015, when Miron felt so tired that she spent most of the day asleep. Following a February emergency room visit, she saw a cardiologist and learned that her heart was barely pumping blood. In April, doctors performed open heart surgery to insert her first left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a mechanical pump that helps to supply blood to the body.

After a five-week hospital stay, Miron returned home to Chilton for a month - only to return to Madison after a clot developed inside the pump.

Miron got so sick, according to her mother, Sue Ammerman, that she said her goodbyes.

“She was that sick,” Ammerman said.

The tight-knit family had “hard decisions” to make in Madison. At one point, Miron asked David, her 36-year-old husband, if he could manage his wife having another surgery.

“I said, ‘If you can’t handle it, is it worth me going through it?’”

Miron pulled through her second open heart surgery, where doctors replaced her first LVAD. A post-surgery blood infection contributed to a nine-week hospital stay, but Miron persevered.

She was reactivated on the organ transplant waiting list on Sept. 15. On Sept. 21, she learned that she had a new heart.

“I was in awe,” Miron said, recalling the surprise phone call. “I handed the phone over to (David).”

Ravi Dhingra, the medical director of UW’s Heart Failure/Transplant Cardiology program, called a heart transplant a “risky procedure.” Doctors have four to six hours to remove the heart from the donor and implant it into the recipient.

“One heart is coming from a donor, and typically you have a chance that once you implant the new heart, it may or may not work,” said Dhingra, who is one of Miron’s doctors.

Doctors also had to remove Miron’s second LVAD, which prolonged her surgery. But at 4:10 a.m. on Sept. 22, her new heart began to beat.

“It’s a total miracle,” said Mary Scullion, Miron’s aunt. “I still don’t know how this all happened. It’s hard to put into words. It’s amazing, truly amazing.”

Dhingra said the heart will “significantly” prolong her life. Immunosuppressive drugs can be prescribed if her body rejects the organ.

Miron was discharged on Oct. 6, and she surprised Holden, her son, at school the following day. The boy gave his mom the biggest hug she had ever received.

“It hurt him hugging me, but I took it!” Miron said.

Today, she takes 20 medications, many of them for her heart. And due to the transplant, she suffers from medication-induced diabetes.

With her new heart beating, Miron said she hopes to travel, and perhaps visit a brother in Virginia. But she also hopes the heart means she’ll have more time with her son.

“I want to be there for Holden. I want to see him grow up, I want to see him get married. I want to see him become the man he’s going to be.”

Though she’s not quite ready, Miron hopes, one day, to meet the donor’s family.

“It would be nice to know who they are, where they’re from, their family,” she said. “Their family was gracious to give us this gift.”

___

Information from: Post-Crescent Media, https://www.postcrescent.com

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