Heart Transplant Recipient from Long Island Urges Women to Monitor Their Health

Eight months to the day after her successful heart transplant, Nanci Kurz returned to Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital (SAB) at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH) joined by doctors and members of her transplant team to urge women to keep close watch on their cardiac health.

Ms. Kurz, a 55-year-old resident of Oakdale, LI, began her journey to heart health four years ago when she suffered a major heart attack. Surprisingly, she had been very active up until that fateful day. The last thing she remembered was coming home from a family dinner and collapsing as she entered her home on February 18, 2018.

Upon her arrival at NSUH, cardiologist Samit Shah, MD, discovered that Ms. Kurz’s heart was so weak that she was retaining water in her lungs and had difficulty breathing. “In order to keep her alive, Nanci was intubated and received a temporary mechanical pump called an Impella,” said Dr. Shah. “Despite this, she continued to worsen; her condition escalated to the point that she was placed on ECMO, which provides an external assist for breathing, as well as dialysis for kidney failure. On top of that, she also suffered a brain bleed that required surgical intervention.”

Finally, doctors told Ms. Kurz that she would require a new heart in order to regain her health; she was listed for transplant in January 2019.

Zachary Kon, MD, surgical director of Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplantation at SAB, recalled the phone call on June 11, 2021, that changed Ms. Kurz’s life. “We called her that morning to tell her that we had found that perfect heart,” said Dr. Kon. “Now, thanks to the transplant and the support of her loving family, Nanci is back to her old self. She runs about 11 miles a day on her treadmill and is planning to run in a half-marathon. Thanks to the support of her loving family and her determination, Nanci is a walking miracle.”

For her part, Ms. Kurz wanted to use the occasion of Women’s Heart Month to join forces with all the doctors, surgeons, nurses, and transplant coordinators who brought her back to health.

“I hope my presence here today will serve as a catalyst in urging women to keep a close watch on their cardiac health,” said Ms. Kurz. “I do consider myself to be a walking miracle – that’s true. That’s why I’m hoping everyone will listen to my story. Please don’t be afraid. Get regularly scheduled tests and screenings. It’s up to us to take care of ourselves.”

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