Cumberland County man shares heart transplant survival story

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ENOLA, Pa. (WHTM) — A Cumberland County man is sharing his story of survival after getting a heart transplant last year.

He’s one of many patients at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, which has the best survival rates in Pennsylvania.

Recent data shows the hospital’s heart transplant patients had a 100% survival rate in the first month after surgery. The U.S. average is 96%.

After one year, the patients had a 97% survival rate. The U.S. average is 91%.

Brandon Seiber, 22, and his family were on vacation in Virginia Beach last summer.

“One night I just woke up with panic attacks, couldn’t breathe, just couldn’t do anything,” Seiber said.

That’s when his grandmother Cindy Gates took him to the emergency room.

“He had 30 pounds of fluid and his heart was beating at 12.5%,” Gates said.

“It definitely was tough. It really changed things,” Seiber said.

When he got back to Central Pa., Dr. John Boehmer, director of the heart failure program at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center told him he had advanced heart failure and needed a transplant.

Just a few months earlier, his mom died from cancer.

“I’m still not even yet grieved over my daughter and I’m sitting there thinking of another family that’s going to lose a loved one to save my grandson,” Gates said.

Seiber made the decision to get the transplant and a year later he’s doing very well.

One of the reasons, Boehmer says, is thorough planning and good communication.

“We went through a process about five or six years ago to really step up every aspect of what we do and through dozens of small changes, we were able to take our program to a level with very, very good outcomes,” Boehmer said.

Now Boehmer and Seiber want others to know how to recognize the signs of heart disease before it’s too late.

“Things such as unusual shortness of breath, unusual swelling in the feet or belly, trouble breathing when you lie down at night or go to sleep, are all symptoms that occur with heart failure,” Boehmer said.

One way to help others is to become an organ donor. There are only about 2,000 to 3,000 hearts available in the country every year for transplants.

Penn State Health averages about 18 heart transplants a year.

“Don’t be afraid to bring up the concept of if I was ever in a situation where I would be donating my organs, that that’s what I’d want to have done,” Boehmer said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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