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A Second chance

Sandy woman living with transplanted heart 'dies' before help arrives


by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - While Tracy Hoyle serves her family hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows, the trio shares a moment of levity. Even though she is using her second transplanted heart and kidney, Tracys husband, Derrick, says his wife has the worlds most positive attitude.Sandy resident Tracy Hoyle’s heart stopped beating several times last year. Essentially, she “died,” which considerably reduced her quality of life.

She “died” right in front of her 11-year old son, Trent.

With her husband, Derrick, out of town on a business trip last spring and Trent having difficulty breathing with asthma, Tracy asked Trent to sleep in her bed so she could monitor his breathing.

That choice of sleeping arrangements proved to be life-saving for Tracy. After a brief visit to the bathroom in the middle of the night, Tracy felt light-headed and her ears were “ringing.” While walking back to the bed, she said she knew she “was going to go down.”

“I ended up passing out on the bed,” she said. “Trent then called 9-1-1 and told the dispatcher he couldn’t wake me up.”

His mother, with a weakened transplanted heart, was unconscious — and he was alone in the house. But all reports are that he remained calm and spoke clearly with all the details the dispatcher required.

“I was scared,” Trent admitted last week. “But I just did what my instincts told me to do.”

It was a little more than just instinct, Tracy suggests, because she and Derrick had taught Trent previously what to do “if you can’t wake Mommy up.”

They know that a youngster could easily be overwhelmed by the gravity of a situation and not able to act. But Trent kept his head, his dad said, and calmly did exactly as his mother had taught him.

“I remember waking up when (Trent) said, ‘They (the paramedics) are here,’ “ she said. “Trent was very calm, but that’s all I remember.”

It’s not over yet

Tracy was stabilized and returned home, but she wasn’t out of the woods yet.

Derrick went through the same scenario last September when he found his wife unconscious in the middle of the night, lying on the floor with a blank stare on her face. She had fallen while walking to the bathroom and hit her head on the door as she fell. The only sound he could hear was her moaning.

“This was horribly unnerving,” Derrick said of that incident. “I thought she was having a heart attack, and I thought this was it (the end). It was her eyes (blank stare); I just couldn’t get past her eyes.”

Her heart was either beating very fast or not at all, but it definitely wasn’t pumping enough blood, so she went into and out of consciousness several times.

“When I woke up,” she said, “I saw all these people around me, and I knew something was going wrong. I just wanted to get it fixed.”

When doctors examined her at the hospital, they wouldn’t let her go home. That was the beginning of her two-month-plus hospital stay, which included a double transplant (heart/kidney).

To find out what was happening with her heart, she was put on a 24-hour heart monitor.

The second night, she had another episode, and the monitor showed that her heart completely stopped beating, which probably happened also during the earlier episodes at home.

But that close call with death didn’t leave its mark on Tracy. She says she doesn’t remember anything more than just going to sleep.

“Everything was black;” she said.

Later, she remembered waking up to medics performing CPR and using smelling salts to wake her.

It appears she has as many lives as a cat.

Tracy had been put on the list of people waiting for a transplant in May 2012. By September, when she arrived at the hospital, she was moved up to 1A status. That means either a heart would become available for transplant or she would die in the hospital.

There was no turning back, no going home.

But Derrick said his wife is always positive, always upbeat — even as she passed through the valley of the shadow of death.

Tracy’s condition

Tracy has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the same condition that affects seemingly healthy young athletes who drop dead at school while playing sports.

by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - Tracy Hoyle continues to strengthen her heart, transplanted for the second time late last October, with exercise on a treadmill as part of her active lifestyle.February is National Heart Month, and that is why The Post is updating a 2010 story on Tracy, now a two-time heart transplant patient.

After her first donated heart gradually declined over a couple of years, her name returned to the list of more than 116,000 Americans waiting for one or more transplants.

Tracy’s name appeared in the Sandy Post after she had lived with her first heart for 10 years, but soon after the ink had dried on that issue, her borrowed heart and kidney began a slow, steady decline.

Husband Derrick says her life changed from one definition of “normal” to another less-active normal.

“I just (lived) how I was feeling,” Tracy said, “and that was my normal. (The decline) was very gradual.”

Even though Tracy’s life was nearly normal, she had a bit less energy, so she reduced her volunteering time at her son’s school.

Last spring, she had lost many of her abilities. She barely had enough energy to walk from a car to a baseball field to see her son play.

Doctors told Tracy that the heart muscle was hardening. It was pumping blood, but it wasn’t refilling well, and had increased its normal (resting) pulse to about 130 beats per minute.

Since neither the heart nor the kidney was working well, her body was retaining water and not flushing toxins.

Even though he says his wife approaches everything in life with a positive attitude, Derrick described his wife’s situation with a bit of irony.

“This is one of those good-news, bad-news things,” he said. “The good news is if you live long enough, you have to have another kidney transplant.”

Endless hospital days

Last fall, Tracy “lived” in the hospital for more than two months, from September to November, which included 44 days waiting to see if a compatible heart would be available for transplant.

While she waited for a new heart to become available, the multitude of hours and endless days seemed to pass by as if they were in slow motion.

Besides, she loves her home, and she was longing for an active lifestyle.

“It was hard to leave (Derrick and Trent) this time,” she said. “(The procedure) was an unknown (to her) because it was a double transplant.”

Derrick said this transplant was different from the first in another way.

“I just think it’s different when you have kids,” he said.

Tracy says her son was a trooper throughout everything that happened.

“He was very protective of me,” she said. “He made sure I was OK all the time.”

“I don’t know if we could be more proud of Trent,” said Derrick. “He handled it better than some adults would have, I think.”

Not only did Trent care for his mother, he is a three-sport athlete and still maintains a 4.0 grade point average — from Kelso Elementary to Boring Middle School.

Two operations

Tracy had her second heart transplant Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, an eight-hour operation that began at 3 a.m. followed by four hours of recovery and tests so the doctors could confirm that the new heart was OK.

Immediately, the same day, she went back into the operating room for another four hours to replace her kidney, which had been damaged by the anti-rejection drugs she had to take for 10 years after her first heart transplant.

Derrick, speaking bluntly and directly, said in his opinion the delay in starting the kidney transplant operation also had another purpose.

“Kidneys are so hard to come by from donors,” he said, “so if it doesn’t look good for the heart, you don’t want to waste a kidney on someone who is going to have a hard time surviving.”

Life-giving donor

When Tracy considers her situation, she looks at it with an eye to the future.

“I could have easily not been here, without my donor,” she said. “Then Trent would be left without a mom, and (Derrick) would be left without a wife.”

Also, her father would be left with only two daughters. And what would her two sisters do without the person who has shared her life with them for four decades?

The organ and tissue donor program, operated by Donate Life Northwest for 38 years, was Tracy’s lifesaver.

Tracy urges those who want to be donors to plan in advance because there is little time to waste when someone needs an organ or other type of transplant.

Tracy’s mother, Barbara Buss, was a donor who gave two corneas to restore a person’s sight and her kidney to save another person’s life.

“It’s the best legacy you can leave behind,” Tracy said. “There’s no greater gift.

“(Donating an organ) is not always life-saving; sometimes it’s life-changing. I get chills thinking that my mother was able to do that for somebody.”

Because of Tracy’s transplants and the three gifts from two donors (two hearts and one kidney), she has an increased quality and length of life.

“I’m more active now than I was before the (second) transplant,” Tracy said. “I’m three months out, and I go to the gymnasium to work out and to my son’s basketball games. I could never be homebound; there’s too much life to live.”