It was the first day of school when math teacher Janna Kintzley was told she would be able to get a heart transplant after being on the waiting list. Before the transplant she had a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) for eight years, which she received after having a heart attack at the age of 35.
It isn’t known for certain why the teacher had the heart attack, and she said the most probable reason is that “I was born with something wrong in my connective tissue which caused two of the main blood vessels to my heart to suddenly dissect.” The pump limited different aspects of Kintzley’s life, specifically not being able to swim or wear dresses because of the power cord for the pump.
“It sounds silly, but after the transplant I was most excited to wear dresses again,” Kintzley said.
In addition to limiting clothing options, the heart pump also meant the math teacher had to visit the doctor to check for blood clots, as well as being in the hospital multiple times over the duration of time she had the LVAD. Kintzley said that although the transplant does make teaching challenging, it isn’t as difficult as when she taught with the pump.
“Apart from the initial recovery, since the transplant, my health has been excellent, and I have fewer appointments to schedule,” Kintzley said. “Life is pretty much back to normal.”
COVID has meant that Kintzley has needed to be cautious about being exposed, because she takes medication every day that weakens her immune system. Kintzley said the purpose of the medication is so “my body doesn’t reject the heart as a foreign body.” Due to her weakened immune system, Kintzley has gotten the vaccine.
“Though studies are still out to determine the effectiveness of the Covid vaccine for transplant patients, I am hopeful that the vaccine has offered me protection,” Kintzley said. “I am very thankful that my family have also all been vaccinated, offering me another layer of protection, and I appreciate everyone who gets vaccinated and continues to practice safe measures against the spread of Covid.”
After receiving the transplant on Aug. 23, 2016-almost eleven years after her heart attack-Kintzley had to recover from the surgery for multiple months. The math teacher had varying emotions before getting the transplant, but her faith was one of the reasons she was encouraged to get it.
“I believe in the power of prayer and felt complete assurance that it was the right thing to do that day,” Kintzley said. “I won’t lie – I was also very scared but having my husband, my three daughters and my pastor there at the hospital with me right before I went in for surgery was so comforting.”
Once the surgery was over Kintzley felt relieved, and it has now been four and a half years since she got the transplant.
“I was and will always be in awe of the doctors and medical teams who have had a hand in my life,” Kintzley said. “And most especially, I am forever grateful to my donor and her family.”