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Heart Transplant Survivor Thankful to Celebrate Second New Birthday

Hayden, Ala., resident George “Mac” McAllister says he’s a 55-year-old kid. But there was a time just two years ago when he wasn’t sure how much longer being a big kid would be possible. Today, thanks in part to UAB Medicine’s Comprehensive Transplant Institute (CTI), McAllister is celebrating his second new birthday – the anniversary of his heart transplant.

Before he came to UAB Medicine in October 2014, McAllister already had survived more than most: two heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, myopathy, ischemia of the heart, and congestive heart failure (CHF). So he turned to the UAB Heart and Vascular Clinic for answers from experts such as Salpy Pamboukian, MD, and James Kirklin, MD.

“We talked to the doctor, and he informed us after a brief evaluation that I probably had end-stage heart failure. And that was pretty much a shock,” McAllister says. “We had been doing well after a quadruple bypass surgery. We knew I had CHF but thought I was on the uptick.”

McAllister was given a then-experimental left ventricular assist device (LVAD) to help with the heart failure, but just two months later he suffered two strokes. His only option was to wait for a heart transplant. McAllister says that was a difficult time emotionally.

“There’s a stark realization that you’re not going to live forever. You’re not going to be picked in the first round of the draft again. You’re not going to jump over rail fences,” McAllister says. “I got really bummed out. Those things go through your mind of what you can’t do. I had to wrap my mind around what I could do instead.”

‘Nothing Short of Angels’

Amazingly, a donor heart was found only two weeks after his second stroke, and Dr. Kirklin performed the heart transplant in June 2015. McAllister says seeing the doctors and nurses at UAB Medicine during his surgery and recovery helped change his outlook on health care.

“We saw the total selflessness of doctors and nurses,” McAllister says. “We got firsthand experience of people who set their lives aside every day, day in and day out, all kinds of hours. They bring comfort, and they care. We think of them nothing short of angels.”

McAllister says anyone experiencing major medical issues should seek help from UAB Medicine.

“To do nothing is like letting the car go off the cliff. We wouldn’t do that in real life, and we shouldn’t do that with our health. Doing nothing is not an option. Go somewhere, get an evaluation, and go from there,” McAllister says. “Going to UAB is one of the first steps I would tell them to make, at least for an evaluation. That’s where I went, and that’s the reason I’m sitting here now.”

Click here to learn more about UAB Medicine’s Comprehensive Transplant Institute and how you can share the gift of life by becoming an organ donor.