Thursday, February 10, 2011

Debbie King trying for heart transplant

by JOYANNA WEBER, Cleveland Daily Banner

Despite major health problems since birth, Debbie Workman King has tried to live a “normal” life and amazed many doctors along the way.

Now, she and her family must raise between $1,500 and $5,000 while waiting for King to be put on a transplant list for a new heart and possibly new lungs.

The hospital wants patients to have the money available before the patient is put on the list so that they can relocate and complete the care after surgery. To raise the money the family established a fund in Debra’s name through the National Transplant Assistance Fund. Workman put the money she says they should have spent on Christmas presents for the family toward the surgery to start the fund. The family has already raised more than $2,000.

“As soon as I get on the list we are going to have to relocate because I can’t be more than an hour or two away from where I’m having the heart put in,” King said.

King will have the transplant surgery at Duke University Hospital in North Carolina.

“I hope it don’t take too long and I can get me a new start on life,” King said.

Workman will be going with King when she relocates to serve as her caretaker after surgery. King said family support is important during the transplant process.

The hardest part is the waiting — not knowing if the right side of her heart will hold up long enough for a transplant to be beneficial. King said the news has also been hard on her husband of 11 years.

Her journey to the transplant list began when King went to the hospital with fluid buildup that made her look six months pregnant, King said. At the hospital, the fluid was drained and she was released. Later King returned because of fatigue and difficulty breathing. Doctors then told her she had a gallstone. However, King said the anesthesiologist was sure there was something else wrong.

This proved to be true.

“They ... found out that the right side of my heart was failing and it ripped the valve apart,” King said.

King was then taken from Woods Memorial Hospital in Etowah to Duke University Hospital in North Carolina.

A breathing test then revealed problems in her lungs also. Doctors are still finalizing the need for a lung transplant, and King has a lung evaluation scheduled for Feb. 21. Debbie said she should be receiving a letter soon stating the final analysis.

King’s problems began when she was born with a heart defect, tetralogy of Fallot, sometimes called “blue baby syndrome” because the lack of oxygen in the blood causes the infant’s face to turn blue. Her first open heart surgery came when she was 3. Since that time she has undergone open heart surgery three more times. During her last surgery, at the age of 40, she was given a pacemaker and defibrillator. Because her condition was rare, when she was younger numerous doctors would come to listen in on the diagnosis when she went to have a procedure done. More recently, Dr. Andrew Wang at Duke University Hospital told the family that King’s case had been used in a medical textbook.

To the surprise of many of her doctors, King has two children and has lived to see three of her grandchildren.

“I was 17 and 18 and I didn’t think about things like that (personal health risk of having a baby),” King said. “Thankfully just by luck and God ... I’ve always beat the odds on whatever I done.”

King’s daughter, Kristi Taylor, said her mom never let her condition get in the way of helping them be involved in extracurricular activities.


To donate to Debra King’s fund:

Call 800-642-8399 or visit and search for Debra King. The website will also provide periodic updates on King’s condition.

Contributions can also be made by sending a check payable to NTAF South-Atlantic Heart Transplant Fund (memo: In Honor of Debra King) to NTAF 150 N. Radnor Chester Road, Suite F-120, Radnor, PA 19087.

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