Heart to Heart
Transplant Recipient Grows Stronger in Cardiac Rehab at Fort Sanders Regional
Walking on a treadmill, Maurice McAllister towers over everyone in the room. He may look ten feet tall and bullet proof, but he’ll be the first to admit he needs the exercise just as much as anyone else. Maybe even more, since he had a heart transplant last year.
“I come here three times a week, faithfully,” said the 47-year-old McAllister as he prepared for a session in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Outpatient Program (CROP) at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. “They’re like family here; they’re awesome.”
A Big Man with a Big Heart
Ordinarily, when you say that someone has a “big heart,” it is meant as a compliment, but having a big heart was a big problem for McAllister. His heart was enlarged because of a muscle disease.
The diagnosis came only a couple of weeks after his wife was diagnosed with stage four liver cancer. They were each other’s caregivers until she died in the summer of 2012.
McAllister eventually remarried and made the most out of life. After two pacemakers and a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), he finally got the news he’d been waiting for – a donor heart was ready.
A New Heart and a New Start
The transplant was performed in October of 2017 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
“I felt new,” McAllister said. “I’d been carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, and I felt so free.”
Since then, he’s been dedicated to getting stronger and meeting fitness goals during cardiac rehab at Fort Sanders Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Center. “When I first started coming here before the transplant, they had to push me to do more,” McAllister said. “Now I challenge myself.”
Even so, McAllister said he doesn’t just continue cardiac rehab for the medically supervised exercise. The camaraderie keeps him coming back, too.
“Never take life for granted,” McAllister said,, “and be a blessing to somebody else, because you don’t know what they’re going through.”