The Story of Cesar Moreno a Heart Transplant Survivor

Alumnus struggles with a heart disease and gets a heart transplant

December 17, 2020

In June of 2013, Cesar Moreno, a 33-year-old alumnus of San Dimas High School, seemed to be relatively healthy until he got a bronchial infection. This caused him to cough really hard and pass out so his wife Victoria Moreno became concerned and took him to the emergency room. While there, the doctors ran all the normal tests including an echocardiogram. The results of the echocardiogram detected that Cesar had dilated cardiomyopathy which is a disease of the heart muscle, usually started in the hearts main pumping chamber which is the left ventricle. The ventricle stretches and thins/dilates and can’t pump blood as well as a healthy heart can.

When they told me that I just remember thinking that this was it it was the end”

— Victoria Moreno

The diagnosis came as a surprise to the Morenos. “I was shocked to hear my diagnosis and didn’t fully understand at the time how severe the condition would become,” Cesar stated. After the diagnosis, he started noticing the symptoms which included shortness of breath, swelling in the legs, and he was tired all the time. He started seeing specialists and was in and out of the hospital a few times. 

About 6 months after he was diagnosed, Cesar’s employer LBI Boyd hosted a fundraiser to help him cover the medical bills.

Cesar’s condition progressively started getting worse over the years and on Jun. 16, 2016, he had a defibrillator pacemaker implanted which was a decision made by his cardiologist as a life-saving measure because his heart could stop at any time. Before and after this procedure he would often pass out and have convulsions called convulsive syncope and there was nothing that could be done about it. One day when he was home alone for a short period of time on Sept. 14, 2017, he had a stroke caused by his heart shooting a blood clot to his brain, and his sister-in-law had just come home from work to find him passed out on the kitchen floor. “It was something I never expected to walk in on and I was scared but I was trying to remain calm for him and get him the care he needed” Cesar’s sister-in-law Stephanie Row. 

The ambulance arrived and took him to Pomona Valley hospital where he was in the ICU and on a ventilator for 10 days. The stroke was on the right side of his brain causing paralysis on the left side of his body and was unable to swallow so he needed a feeding tube. He was in the hospital for a total of 17 days before being transferred to the rehabilitation center. While there he had to relearn his gross and fine motor skills again. He was there for seven weeks and when he arrived he wasn’t able to do anything on his own. When he had left he was walking with a quad cane.

After the stroke, he was doing fine for about a year and then his condition started to decline again and he started to make more trips to the hospital. He had a new cardiologist who started adjusting his meds. “His heart was getting worse and they were basically buying him time until his heart failed completely,” Victoria said. 

Unfortunately, on May 18, 2020, he was having his defibrillator pacemaker upgraded, and during the procedure, his body went into shock from the anesthesia which put a lot of pressure on his heart. After his procedure, he was feeling very ill and was going into endstage heart failure. He went home where he was having trouble with his breathing, was extremely tired, and was swelling up. Then on Jun. 14, his wife dropped him off at Pomona Valley hospital and due to covid, she was not able to go in and be with him. Two days later his kidneys and liver started failing so his cardiologist made a call to a friend who was a transplant cardiologist at USC and got Cesar transferred to USC Keck hospital to be evaluated for the transplant list.

When he arrived at USC Keck, his blood pressure was very low, his skin was yellow and his body was cold and the doctors didn’t think he was going to make it through the night. “When they told me that I just remember thinking that this was it it was the end” Victoria stated. They were able to stabilize him and implant an Intra aortic balloon pump which helped pump his blood throughout his body. He did extensive testing to be evaluated for the UNOS transplant list which he was approved for. While at Keck he had to get his Intra aortic balloon moved five times which required surgery every time. In July he was told that there was a match for a heart and that he would be having his heart transplant but the heart fell through. At this point, Cesar was pretty down about it and felt defeated because he knew most people spend about 10 months in the hospital before they find a donor and it didn’t help that he wasn’t allowed any visitors except his wife. 

On Sept. 18, 2020, at about 12:30 am his nurse came in and told Cesar that there was a possible match for a heart and he called his wife right away. They were excited but they knew there was a chance that the heart wouldn’t be a match. He had to have multiple blood tests and a covid test done before they knew for sure if it was a perfect match but thankfully it ended up being a perfect match. He went into the operating room at 6:45 pm and when they pulled out Cesar’s old heart at about 11:38 pm there was an earthquake when his heart was in the surgeons’ hands. After, that the rest of the surgery ran smoothly and after 97 days in the hospital Cesar received his new heart from his organ donor HERO. His family jokes about how his heart shook the room. After his transplant, he was home within two weeks. “I am so grateful to have been given this gift and another chance to live a long healthy life. I have a wonderful support system and couldn’t have been able to make it through it without them” heart transplant survivor Cesar said. He is home and healthy and doing better than ever and spending time with his beautiful family. 

 

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