Jason Pablo moved easily around a tennis court on a recent bright and sunny afternoon, alternately hitting the ball to his daughter, 10, and son, 7, standing ready with their racquets on the other side of the net. View Video Transcript
Heart Transplant Gives Local Father New Lease on Life
Jason Pablo moved easily around a tennis court on a recent bright and sunny afternoon, alternately hitting the ball to his daughter, 10, and son, 7, standing ready with their racquets on the other side of the net.
Pablo, 38, loves spending time with his children—playing tennis and basketball and biking with them. But only three years ago, he could not have done these things. He suffered from a form of cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart: The lower left chamber of the organ had become dilated, or enlarged, impairing its ability to pump blood.
Today, however, he is swinging a racket and chasing down tennis balls again, as well as doing all the activities he enjoyed before his diagnosis, thanks to a heart transplant at Stanford Hospital & Clinics. "Basically, the transplant has allowed me to think beyond the next day, the next week and even the next month about being an active participant in my children's future," he said. "That, for me, is the greatest thing."
A resident of Union City, Pablo was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in 2000. It was "idiopathic," meaning doctors were not sure what had caused it. At the time, his wife was six months pregnant with their daughter.
"It was an emotional blow, knowing that I had this condition with my parenting life just beginning," he said.
Still, it wasn't until 2003 that the symptoms began to take a significant toll, sapping his energy and leading to what he called "bad days" when he could barely get out of bed. About that time, his doctors diagnosed him with a heart arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm. They initially treated it with drugs. Later, in 2005, he underwent a minimally invasive procedure, a catheter ablation, to destroy the problem-causing heart tissue. He also had a small defibrillator implanted in his chest after he experienced a more life-threatening form of arrhythmia, ventricular tachycardia.
Nevertheless, his condition worsened. In December of 2007, he underwent a second ablation procedure. This time, doctors accidentally perforated a major coronary vein, compelling him to undergo emergency open-heart surgery. "From that time on, the bad days started to outnumber the good days by far," Pablo said. "It was somewhat heart wrenching because my kids, who were really young at the time, wanted to go out and play, and I just didn't have the energy. My son was 4 at the time and would want to be carried, but I just didn't have the strength."
A few months later, his doctors began suggesting that he seriously consider a heart transplant. He chose to have the procedure at Stanford Hospital and began going there for pre-operative screenings and tests. "It was an amazing experience," he said. "Each and every person, every nurse and doctor, made it known to me that they were there for me, and they never fell short of that. I felt like I had a friend or close relative who was watching out for me."
Stanford Hospital, which performed the first successful heart transplant in the United States in 1968, sees one of the largest volumes of heart-transplant patients in the world, performing the operation on 40 and 50 patients each year. The wait for a heart transplant at Stanford is three times shorter than the national average, and the hospital is a leader in introducing new concepts and treatments to improve patient outcomes.
"The surgery was so much easier than I anticipated," he said. "Some of the nurses said my recovery was actually better than textbook. They were able to take out my breathing tubes just hours after the operation, and I was walking around the hospital before I left."
He continued, "Now I'm just looking forward to the next day when I can play with my kids, whether we're going out to hit tennis balls or to the golf range. I feel great."
For more information about Stanford Hospital & Clinics Heart Transplant Program, call 650-723-5468.
By John Sanford
Jason: My name is Jason Pablo, I am thirty-eight years old.
August of 2000, I was diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy. The bottom left chamber of my heart basically died off, and the rest of my heart had to be working a little bit harder.
My wife and I were six months pregnant with my daughter, and it was somewhat of a crushing blow, knowing that, I've got this condition with pretty much my parenting life just beginning.
So for the first three years it was fine. And then in 2003, the bad days started to come about.
I didn't have the energy to do much. I was put on a diuretic and two other heart medications.
So in 2005, I woke up in the middle of the night, cold sweat, and with every step just getting
weaker and weaker, and I got rushed to a hospital, they said I showed signs of VTAC.
What they wanted to do was a PV ablation, they did correct it, but it only lasted about a year and a half.
So, the second one took place in December of 2007. I thought—be the same thing, piece of cake, next thing I know I wake up and I've got tubes goin' down my throat, and what had happened was, the doctors actually tore, my coronary sinus.
Two or three months, healed up fine, but the bad days started to outnumber the good days by far.
And then, August first, I was rushed to the hospital. The doctors thought that it was my gall-bladder that was causing me to feel lethargic. So then after having my gall-bladder taken out they noticed that there was nothing wrong with the gall bladder. Two or three days later, my cardiologist came back in and said we've exhausted all of our efforts, and it's time that you get sent some other place to get evaluated for a heart transplant. And one of the options was Stanford.
I was familiar with Stanford and the reputation that Stanford had as being an innovative hospital. Knowing that I was going to a place where the first transplant took place, I felt good about it because there are new remedies and new therapies that they may have available to me.
When I first arrived at Stanford, they brought me straight to the Coronary Care Unit.
The surgery was so much easier than I anticipated. As soon as I woke up out of the surgery, everything was different—how I felt, the fact that they wanted to take the breathing tubes out of me within hours...and each and every nurse or a doctor made it known to me that they were just there for me. I felt like a close relative who was watchin' out for me. The whole entire experience was just amazing.
Daughter: After, he did a lot more things with us, like, he played sports with us.
Son: When he came back from the hospital, I was so happy that he came back, and he became my Dad again.
Jason: The transplant has allowed me to think beyond the next day, the next week, or even the next month—to even think about participating in my children's future. Now my dreams are a little bit more simple, but they're a little bit more rewarding, knowing that I can share a lot of things with my family.
I feel great. Life my life again.
About Stanford Health Care
Stanford Health Care (SHC) seeks to heal humanity through science and compassion one patient at a time, through its commitment to care, educate, and discover. Across its health system of inpatient care, outpatient health centers, medical groups, health plan offerings, care navigation and virtual care services, Stanford Health Care provides patients with the very best in health and care through its unique leading edge and coordinated care approach.
Stanford Health Care is widely recognized for delivering the highest levels of care and compassion, while also discovering breakthroughs for treating cancer, heart disease, brain disorders, primary care issues, and many other conditions. Stanford Health Care and its Stanford Hospital, along with Stanford Children’s Health and the Stanford University School of Medicine, are committed to delivering Stanford Medicine excellence to each and every patient and family served.
For more information, visit: www.stanfordhealthcare.org