Maureen Maguire: Strong Relationships. Strong Heart.
Discovering Her Heart Disease.
The best relationships can stand the test of time. Just ask Maureen Maguire, a heart transplant recipient who began her relationship with Dr. Harvey Waxman at Penn more than 30 years ago.
At age 32, Maureen went into VTAC (ventricular tachycardia), her heart beating at more than 200 beats per minute. Dr. Waxman oversaw her care, managing her disease with a careful balance of medications. “This man is brilliant, extremely humble and I trust him with all things medicine,” Maureen says of her cardiologist.
Heart disease runs in Maureen’s family. Her younger brother passed away at age 15 from a sudden heart attack because of an undiagnosed heart defect. She knew from the get-go how serious her condition was. “Being told at 32 that I had developed heart disease, in particular ventricular tachycardia, I already had the mindset that my days were numbered,” she says. “But I decided at one point that whatever I had left, I was going to live it.”
Building Relationships. Building Trust.
Under the care of Dr. Waxman, Maureen lived with her condition. Married and the mother of four, she tried not to be defined by her heart disease. And from time to time, she’d lapse with her drug regimen, much to the chagrin of Dr. Waxman. “He forgave me, picked me up, and we started over again, and reassured me each time and encourage me—even though most of the time he was shaking his head because I loved life so much. I didn’t want to give it up.”
About 10 years ago, Maureen was forced to slow down because of heart failure. “This last year was the worst,” she says. “The things I could two years ago, I could no longer do—walk around the block, play with the dogs, clean, shop or cook.” She was in and out of the hospital, until finally, last February, she was informed by Dr. Lee Goldberg that they had found a donor match. She was getting a new heart on that day. “I was shocked. I needed to think about it,’” she remembers. “Even though I had heard about it for 30 years, the thought of actually having a transplant that day was overwhelming.”
Although he wasn’t involved in her heart transplant surgery, Dr. Waxman was still there for Maureen. “Dr. Waxman was in the background, and he was arranging for surgeons, care all the follow up. That’s where my confidence came from and we went ahead with the surgery.”
A Second Chance at Life.
Maureen came out of surgery feeling grateful for her life. She spent three weeks at Penn recovering, and she felt well cared for thanks to the dedication of her nurses. She says everyone from the cleaners to the highest-ranking doctors were there to help her get healthy.
Several months later, Maureen is rehabbing, continuing to make great strides with her health. “My life has completely changed,” she says. “It took a while to learn how to get in the swing of things, but yesterday, I walked a mile with our dog. I wasn’t short of breath.”
The Right Decision.
Looking back on her journey, Maureen knows that Penn was the right place for her. “There’s too much to life and I was not going to settle for just being a spectator,” she says. “I actually wanted to be a participant, and when it came to not settling, I knew I had to go to Penn.” The nurses, doctors and staff there, she explains, are committed to learning as much as the can and feed off each other’s commitment.
Maureen no longer needs to see Dr. Waxman for cardiac care—but she continues to see him as a friend. “Because of our 30-year relationship and his devotion to his craft, I know that if anything comes up, he will be there for me.”
To hear more of Maureen’s story, click here.