Doctors must be sure that everything from chest cavity size to the person’s weight will be suitable for the donated heart, she said.
“There are so few hearts available that when one does become available, they’ll bring two or three people to the operating room. They’ll sedate everyone and only one person will wake up with a new heart and the other people will go back to their room and continue the wait. And that is a wait that you may not survive.”
It’s called a false start and it had happened to one patient seven times, Buckley was told.
Just days after Buckley was put on the transplant list, Dr. Gilbert Horton Mudge III called Buckley and told her they had a heart and she was the only known match.
Buckley got a new heart Sept. 1, 2010.
She felt different the moment she woke up after surgery.
“As soon as I woke up from the transplant, my heart felt full. It felt so full. I felt like I could breathe for the first time in my entire life.”
Apart from the organ donor and the doctors who saved her life, it was Buckley’s friends who helped her heal.
“My story is really mostly about friendship,” Buckley said.
Amazingly, 103 of her friends came together and at least one of them was by Buckley’s side at all times for a full seven months, she said.
While Buckley’s life was saved, it isn’t easy.
“People think, ‘Oh, she got a heart transplant, she’s all better.’ It’s not like that.”
Buckley travels from her home in Burlington to Boston each month where her heart tissue is tested to ensure her body isn’t rejecting her new heart, she explained.
She described the process as yanking pieces of her heart through her neck without sedation.