HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — A High Point woman has made it onto the heart transplant list after living with a heart pump for nearly seven years.
Sabrey Smith’s journey began in 2013 when she learned she had a blot clot and soon after was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
“I couldn’t even walk two steps. Out of breath. Gasping for air…I couldn’t even go up a staircase,” Sabrey Smith said.
She was living in Houston, Texas, at the time, working two jobs and mourning the death of her son. Her doctors advised her to move closer to her family.
After moving to High Point, Sabrey underwent open heart surgery in 2016 at Cone Health Heart and Vascular Center to receive a heart pump.
“The surgery takes about four hours, and they’re in the hospital 10 to 14 days…after surgery because they’re so weak to begin with,” said Dr. Peter Van Trigt, a cardiothoracic surgeon.
A left ventricle assist device, also known as an LVAD, keeps her heart pumping.
Sabrey and her doctors say it was a lifesaving surgery that helped her maintain her active lifestyle. She provides transportation to the elderly for doctor’s appointments, grocery pick up and hosts community events.
“Most…patients that are receiving a heart pump. This is to save their life. They’re at the end of life,” Trigt said.
“If I hadn’t have gotten this LVAD when I did, I think I’d have been long gone,” Sabrey said.
This month marks the 10th anniversary of the heart pump program at Cone Health. During the past decade, doctors at the hospital have installed 120 of them.
“About 10 to 15% of those patients we hope to get on to get onto the heart transplant list and actually get them transplanted. So while you may get five to 10 years from a heart pump, you could get another 10 to 20 or 25 years with a transplant,” said Dr. Dan Bensimhon, medical director of Advanced Heart Failure Clinic & Mechanical Support Program at Moses Cone Hospital.
Two years after getting her heart pump, Sabrey looked to see if she qualified for a heart transplant, facing another obstacle.
“When I went to see if I was a candidate for a heart transplant…they found cancer. Breast cancer,” Sabrey said.
A few years later after ringing the bell cancer free, she encountered another hurdle.
“The second time I went, which was last year, I needed to drop like 20 pounds because my A1c was too high,” Sabrey said.
A few weeks ago on April 25, she got the call she was on the heart transplant list.
“She was given three major things, and she really took that serious and realized, ‘hey…I could get 10 to 20 more years.’ And she worked hard and did all of those things,” said Sara Herbert, VAD coordinator.
Now on the list, they could get the call any day for the heart. Sabrey said she is packed and ready to go to Duke University Hospital when that day comes.
Sabrey’s family has launched a GoFundMe to help raise money that will cover expenses during her travels to Duke University Hospital for heart transplant surgery.