The heart Holly Draper almost received wasn't good enough. But thanks to her heart transplant team in Kansas City at The University of Kansas Health System, Holly got the heart she deserves.
Holly Draper, 35, loves her job. As a teacher for students with serious learning disabilities, she coaxes her kiddos into taking turns, practicing manners and making good decisions.
But in the spring of 2017, Holly's students struggled to understand why their beloved teacher wasn't in the classroom. It didn't seem possible that "Miss Holly" was sitting in a hospital bed at The University of Kansas Health System, waiting for a new heart.
It began as a sinus infection
Holly learned about her heart issues almost by mistake. After having an allergic reaction to a sinus infection medication, she ended up in the emergency room at a local hospital. She said her heart was racing, but they sent her home with a pain pill.
About 10 days later, Holly still felt exhausted. Her primary care physician referred her to The University of Kansas Health System.
Cardiologist Andrew Sauer, MD, met Holly shortly after she was admitted.
"By the time she got to us, it was too late to treat her sick heart. She was in cardiogenic shock. Her heart could not pump enough blood to meet her body's needs," explains Dr. Sauer.
Searching for the cause
With no prior history of heart disease, the heart team performed a thorough evaluation to identify any underlying cause that could be responsible for Holly's advanced heart failure. But Holly's test results came back clean.
When there's no explanation for a sick heart, it's called idiopathic cardiomyopathy. According to Dr. Sauer, that's common among young women who need heart transplants.
"Chances are, Holly's heart started getting sick years ago," Dr. Sauer says. "She was young and healthy, so her other organs were able to compensate for her weak heart muscle. But finally, her heart couldn't withstand the strain."
"They told me my heart was functioning at just 5-10%," says Holly. "I needed a new one."