Patient Story: Taylor MacLean - Cardiac Rehabilitation
Taylor MacLean is your typical 25-year old woman residing in Jamaica Plan. Young, vibrant, active, and, aside from being diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy during her sophomore year in college, has an unremarkable medical history. Her story of hope, courage, and perseverance is certainly one to tell.
“Dr. Balady and the entire team insisted on taking me on as a patient,” Taylor told us. “They were all so open and enthusiastic to learning more about the LVAD pump, and went through multiple trainings to get educated on the device itself and how to provide the best treatment around it.”Determined to remain active and as healthy as possible as she awaited a new heart, Taylor was encouraged to participate in cardiac rehabilitation to maintain heart health, now that the LVAD was in place. She began to research various programs in the Boston area. After meeting with Dr. Gary Balady and his team at Boston Medical Center, she knew it was a perfect fit. BMC’s multidisciplinary Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention Program has been certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) and provides a comprehensive approach to improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of future cardiac events for each patient. Exercise training, stress tests, and nutrition, weight, and cholesterol management are all part of a customized program to address the individual needs and priorities of each patient. Taylor’s condition went virtually unnoticed until about a year ago when she received devastating news: her heart was failing. This is not something one would expect to hear at age 24, but she took the news in stride. Taylor was added to the transplant list in December 2014, and a left ventricular assistive device (LVAD) was placed on January 22, 2015 as bridge therapy to the heart transplant that she would ultimately need.
The Cardiac Rehab staff officially welcomed Taylor with open arms on July 1, 2015. Her appearance on Day 1 surprised everyone; she arrived wide-eyed, wearing shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt, a high ponytail, earplug headphones, and a large somewhat bedazzled bag which carried her LVAD. But moreover, she wore a smile. She was ready. “Taylor amazed me from the moment she began our program,” Chief Exercise Physiologist Stephanie Zombeck told us. “Her positivity, yet frankness and openness about her entire journey is beyond admirable.”
Unable to return to her job as an Occupational Therapist, Taylor invested much of her free time into the program. She often arrived in good spirits ready to step up her training level. On days that weren’t as great, she shared her stories of not sleeping well, having nightmares or medication changes and on occasion she was discouraged when her felt palpitations were confirmed with ECG arrhythmias. Sometimes she would emotionally succumb to the arrhythmias and the weight of her LVAD, breaking down in tears. Nonetheless, she was resilient. Taylor continuously brought smiles to the faces of the rehab staff across the board. “She is truly an inspiration to us all and we’ve learned so much about the human spirit from her,” Stephanie stated. “Words cannot express how much she has touched our lives! We are better people for having met her.”Taylor admitted that remaining active had been something that held great importance to her throughout her life, but after the trauma that her body had been through over the months of being in end-stage heart failure, the idea of jumping back into a physically demanding routine was particularly daunting. “With the help of Dr. Balady, the exercise physiologists and rehab staff, I was able to gradually gain the confidence I needed to take back control of my body, resulting in positive changes not only physically but mentally as well,” Taylor states.
Taylor attended rehab three days per week through September, eventually tapering down to two. At 6:00 AM on December 1, 2015, five months to the day that she began rehab, she received the call she had been waiting for: there was a potential donor heart available. The next day, she received her new heart, and now, she is counting down the days to when she can begin part two of her cardiac rehabilitation journey at BMC. “I could not have made it through this point in my life without them,” Taylor tells us. “They really are an amazing group of people, both personally and professionally.”