Giant Cell Myocarditis Survivor Dedicated Her Life to Saving Others
Candace Partnered with Two Doctors to Form the Myocarditis Foundation
In August 2001 I received two immunizations to travel to Africa to do mission work. Two hours later, my heart started to beat faster, more irregularly and more forcefully. One week later I coded three times, had a defibrillator inserted and was sent home with a diagnosis of viral myocarditis.
The next day I went into cardiogenic shock and though the doctors told my husband there was only a slim chance I would survive the night, if by some miracle I did, my only chance for survival was a heart transplant.
The next day, I was transported via EMT to Columbia Medical Center where Dr. Deng was waiting for me in the Critical Coronary Unit.
He knew immediately it was giant cell myocarditis and he consulted with the world’s leading expert, Dr. Leslie Cooper from the Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Cooper’s research showed that by giving chemotherapy because of its immunosuppressant and anti-inflammatory properties, GCM patients survive until transplant if a heart were to become available. In all those weeks, I laid in my bed in the CCU praying that I would live to see my children married and my grandchildren born.
The treatment was successful and a heart did come on October 1, 2001; the heart of a 17 year old boy whose parents made an unbelievably difficult decision to donate their son’s organs. I survived only because of a series of miracles: Dr. Deng’s immediate diagnosis of Giant Cell, Dr. Cooper’s research and treatment recommendations and the gift of a heart from an unknown family who suffered tremendous loss.
I said to Dr. Deng and Dr. Cooper, “What can I do to give back to you what your knowledge, expertise and care have given to me?” Together, we formed the Myocarditis Foundation to help other patients and families in the present. It is our hope that the research we fund will result in more lives saved in the future. I plan to work toward that goal for the rest of the life I am given.