Young heart donor saves marshall faculty member’s life

Jim Sacconi, Billing supervisor for the Marshall Health Department of Pathology, received a heart transplant at the University of Kentucky on December 17.
In order for this transplant to take place, a working heart must be used from a recently deceased organ donor. “It changed my life considerably,” Sacconi said.
A heart transplant, or cardiac transplant, is a surgical transplant procedure performed on patients with end-stage heart failure.
Before Sacconi received his new working heart, he had to wear a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to help his heart pump. While Sacconi used the LVAD, he had to have dressing changes every day, bloodwork every week and was not allowed to go swimming. Sacconi said even taking a shower was a difficult task because the LVAD batteries had to go in a shower pack and hang on him while he was in the shower.
Sacconi said that daily tasks such as running a vacuum cleaner or getting laundry out of the dryer could not be done because of the static electricity.
“The batteries posed a problem because they hung on the side,” Sacconi said.
Sacconi said people even perceived him differently due to his LVAD battery pack. Sacconi used an LVAD for three and a half years.
Sacconi had three hereditary heart attacks at the ages of 30, 32 and 46 before he received his transplant. Sacconi has three children who get their hearts checked about every six months.
Typically, this hereditary heart condition, called cardiomyopathy, skips a generation and tends to run in males. According to the Mayo Clinic, cardiomyopathy is a condition where the muscle in the heart is abnormal causing a more difficult time for a heart to pump and deliver blood throughout the body.
Sacconi said his life changed forever in December when he reached the top of the transplant at the University of Kentucky. Although he no longer has to worry about carrying the LVAD around with him, Sacconi said he still faces daily obstacles and changes. Sacconi has to wear a medical flu mask every time he goes outside or is around people that may be sick. Sacconi cannot have pets and can no longer go to buffet style restaurants because he could possibly catch a cold.
Sacconi has heart biopsies every two weeks to check heart tissue for signs of rejection.
“So far I’ve gotten zero,” Sacconi said. “Zero is the best.” Sacconi will only have to have a heart biopsy once a year starting next December.
Sacconi was not the only one to benefit from his heart transplant. Sacconi’s wife was once his primary caretaker. Sacconi’s wife had to change him whenever he needed a dressing change and help him in and out of the shower every day for the time Sacconi was using an LVAD.
Before his transplant, Sacconi said traveling was practically impossible. Sacconi and his wife are planning a trip to Cincinnati, Ohio where Sacconi will be able to go swimming for the first time since using an LVAD. Sacconi said his only advice for people who know that heart conditions run in their family is to get checked regularly.
Logan Parkulo can be contacted at [email protected]