Rachel Moore Celebrates Life With a New Heart

rachelMoore, a Chicago native and a pediatric intensive care nurse, was diagnosed with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy in 1996 and received three implanted cardiac defibrillators (ICDs) before she developed congestive heart failure in 2004. In October of 2007, during a mitral valve repair procedure, the surgeon determined that it was unsafe to discontinue the temporary operative bypass and installed a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a battery-operated mechanism that helps maintain the pumping ability of a heart that cannot effectively work on its own.

Her condition deteriorated, and her surgeon in Chicago recommended that Moore, whose case was very high risk, come to Emory to be evaluated for placement on Emory's heart transplant waiting list. Nine months after the LVAD surgery and within three weeks of the recommendation to come to Atlanta, she and her mother, DeLoris Moore, packed up and headed for Ellenwood, Georgia.

Moore was evaluated by the Emory Heart Transplantation team and placed on the waiting list in November 2007. She was placed under the care of the heart transplantation and VAD team while awaiting her transplant, including Sonjoy R. Laskar, MD, cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine. Her suitcase was already packed when the call came. She arrived at Emory University Hospital with all of her LVAD backup equipment plus a backup LVAD driver. That afternoon, January 15, 2009, two years and one week after the LVAD was implanted, J. David Vega, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon, director of Emory's Heart Transplantation & VAD Program and associate professor of surgery, performed Moore's heart transplant.

 "It is very gratifying to know that a professional colleague at another transplant center in Chicago felt that Rachel was too high-risk to have her transplant in Chicago and referred her to Emory for her heart transplant," says Dr. Vega. "Her operation was challenging due to her previous operation and the presence of the LVAD. Rachel was in great shape for the transplant operation, and that is one of the reasons she has done so well." 

"I'm still in the recovery process," says Moore, who returns to Emory for bi-monthly biopsies. Her transplant team at Emory is pleased with her progress. 

"Rachel Moore's tale is an amazing and courageous story," says Dr. Laskar. "She speaks to the vital role of mechanical circulatory support in advanced heart failure. She was supported for a prolonged period with a mechanical device while she was on the transplant waiting list. During that time, she was at home and quite active. Her post-transplant course has been uncomplicated in large part because of LVAD support. The newer-generation LVADs are smaller and less prone to failure. These devices show promise not only in potential transplant recipients but in non-transplant candidates as well."

Following the transplant, Moore lives in a totally different world. "I can breathe better, I can sing, I can walk, I can bathe, I can sleep - all the little things we take for granted," says Moore. "I no longer have problems I used to have to live with."

"We left everything in Chicago, and now Rachel has gone from needing hour-to-hour care to having a new lease on life," says DeLoris Moore. "It's like we had been dreaming for two years and we woke up."

"Words cannot adequately express how happy I am with Emory," says Rachel Moore. "Since the first day I walked in the door, they've been like family. Now, I am looking forward to the rest of my life." 

Rachel will be featured as a Heart Walk survivor in the 2009 Metro Atlanta Start! Heart Walk Saturday, November 7.

You can visit Rachel's personal Web site at www.heart4rachel.org.

For more information about Emory's Center for Heart Failure & Transplantation, visit the following sites: 

Emory Heart Failure Center

What is heart failure?

Emory Heart Transplant Center

Information about LVADs