Hello, my name is Dana Hardy and this is my site to inform family and friends of my progress toward a new heart and new hope. I hope you’ll stop back often to read what’s going on and to give the occasional word of encouragement. I also appreciate any financial help that you can provide – I’m working to raise $20,000 per year for my heart transplant! I know that sounds like a lot, but the estimated cost for the first year of my transplant is $787,700 (source) so it’s only a fraction of the total.
For those of you who don’t know my story, at the age of 15 I collapsed while running at my high school track practice. I did regain consciousness but from that day forward my life was never the same. My parents took me to see our family doctor and he referred me to Hershey Medical Center where I spent the better part of the summer undergoing various medical tests and procedures.
I was diagnosed with a dilated cardiomyopathy and a resulting ventricular arrhythmia. Cardiomyopathy literally means heart muscle disease. It has many causes. My condition was most likely caused by a virus that attacked my heart muscle and left it scarred and enlarged (dilated). The doctors have always been very suspicious that there is genetic involvement as well but thus far we have not been able to identify any other relatives that have had any of my symptoms. Because my heart is irregular in shape and size due to the muscular damage it does not contract and expand properly. This damage has left me at risk of sudden cardiac death due to ventricular arrhythmia/fibrillation. What this means is my heart rate will take off beating too fast to pump any blood anywhere in my body. If this arrhythmia persists for too long without immediate medical attention (CPR & defibrillation) I will die of cardiac arrest.
Luckily for me, medications have been able to control my arrhythmia for some time. That is not to say there were not bumps in the road, there were, but I was able to go on with my life – graduate from Penn State’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, get married to my high school sweetheart and have two beautiful children. However, at the age of 27, it became clear that the medications could no longer do it on their own. I had to be life flighted from a family holiday gathering to have emergency surgery to implant a pacemaker/defibrillator device. This device, along with my medications, paces my heart continually and delivers a life saving shock if my medications fail to keep my arrhythmia in check. I had some complications and hospitalizations after this device was implanted. Mostly these issues were with the device itself and getting it to work with my body. I had misfirings from the shock and let me tell you that hurts when you are not really in need of it! But then, thankfully, life settled down and went back to normal. I was enjoying being a wife and mother and I was also working part-time as a R.N. supervisor. And then out of nowhere, in 2005 at the age of 31, I had a stroke. It left me paralyzed and unable to speak. It took a long year of hard work to regain my former abilities. My husband, kids and family cared for and supported me through my recovery. My kids were 7 and 5 at the time.
In 2007, I had to have another surgery to implant a second pacemaker/defibrillator because I had worn out the first device. Today I find myself in a difficult spot. Despite all of the medical care, medications and life saving devices my heart is failing and it is clear that I need a heart transplant in order to survive. I am under the care of the University of Pennsylvania’s Heart Transplant Team in Philadelphia, three and a half hours from my home in State College, PA, where I am officially listed on the transplant list. My life continues on much as it has, only with more medications than ever and more frequent hospitalizations in Philly. I am still trying to keep up with my kids and all of their activities (swimming, football and track for Carter, 14, and gymnastics for Addy, 11). Everyday I am hoping, waiting and praying for that life saving call. There is a tough road ahead. But I know with the support of my family and friends I will make it. Thank you for following along with my journey.