A Letter from Shayla M. Penns

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By Ms. Pat Brady , Ediror Heart to Heart Newsletter | September 10, 2006

My name is Shayla M. Penns and I am a heart transplant patient. I was always healthy as a child growing up in Abilene, TX. My parents had 6 children I am next to the youngest. I was 13 years old one day during cold and flu season, my sister, brother and {{more}} I got sick. My brother and sister got better and went back to school. I continued being sick and was taken to the emergency room where they did x-rays to determine if I had pneumonia. The x-rays showed an enlarged heart. I was flown to Children’s Hospital in FT. Worth since I was real sick; they found there was nothing they could do for me so I was flown to Children’s Medical Center where I was admitted to ICU. It turned out I had cardiomyopathy. I was in the hospital about 3 months, was discharged but continued to be followed in cardiology clinic I continued being real sick I thought I was going to die. When I was about 14 years the doctors started talking to my parents and me about heart transplantation. The medicines I was taking were not going to cure me so I was going to need a heart transplant. I was put on the heart transplant list when I was fifteen years old. God answered our prayers and two days later a heart became available. I was in ICU and the next morning I was taken to the OR and I received my new heart. I remember going to the operating room and receiving anesthesia to put me to sleep. When the surgeon was sewing me up I woke up and saw them sewing me up even though I had my eyes covered I could see a little bit. They realized I had kind woken up and gave me more medicine to sedate me. The next day after surgery I was extubated and the first thing I asked for was something to eat from McDonald’s my parents brought me something and I was able to eat.We had to start learning all about my medications and what they were for. I told my parents I wanted to be responsible for my medicines and care. They were there in case I needed some help and make sure I was doing the right thing. I would like to thank my parents for everything they have done for me. They were there from the beginning and are still there for me. I became pregnant at 17 and had a little boy, who was born 2 months premature but is otherwise healthy. I had to stop taking most of my medicines during my pregnancy because it could harm my baby. I didn’t have any rejections during my pregnancy but right after I had Christopher I started getting rejections and have had to be admitted numerous times to be treated for rejections.My typical day begins at 6:30 am; I get up, dress, feed and clothe Christopher then take him to daycare. I go to school from 8 to 12, run errands, and do laundry. I pick up Christopher from day care or my parents and go home start dinner and get ready for bed. We go to bed early and then start a new day. Every day I wake up is a blessing. I would like to live to see Christopher get married and have children; I want a lot of grand kids, especially since I don’t plan on having any more children.I am going to school to be a pediatric nurse, but am not sure what specialty. I am sure it is not going to be cardiac. I have a few favorite nurses at the hospital on the floor it is Lay Lay, in the cath lab it is Liz Galloway, and on the 3rd. floor my personal nurse Cheryl Butler.My life changed a lot right after transplant. I was 100% better right afterwards was able to do a lot of things I hadn’t been able to do since before my transplant. I had energy, which I hadn’t had in a while. I did notice that certain foods I liked to eat before my transplant I don’t like to any more eat anymore, like peanut butter, strawberries and bananas. My favorite food is pizza. The newspaper in Abilene did a story on me before the transplant and one after. We had a big party when I came home from Dallas with a lot of friends and family. Danielle is my good friend who really stuck by me through it all and is still there for me. Thank God for all my friends and family and all the doctors and nurses at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas who took care of me, before during and after my transplant. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all of them. I wish I could say everything has been easy for me, but I still have rejections. I do know that I am very lucky to be alive and I thank God for that. My faith is a big part of me I attend church every Sunday and try to make it to Wednesday’s service but I am not always able to do so. I just take one day at a time. The worst moments were being in ICU, thinking I was going to die. The best is waking up every day, which is a miracle in itself. I would like to thank Susan Daneman and Joni Wells my heart transplant coordinators. I don’t know what I would do without you. I would also like to thank all the doctors on the 3rd. floor especially Dr. David Fixler. Shayla Monique Penns