In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

October 22, 2015

Persistence in Finding an Answer Pays Off for Firefighter With Failing Heart

By In the Loop

Phoenix firefighter David Wipprecht underwent a successful heart transplant surgery under the care of Evan Kransdorf, M.D., Ph.D.It started last year around the holidays with a cough, for which 38-year-old Phoenix firefighter David Wipprecht figured he could just take some over-the-counter medicine. But as the New Year approached, his cough was joined by shortness of breath. "It got to the point where I couldn't really breathe much," he tells Arizona's ABC 15-TV. "I went to several doctors who diagnosed it as pneumonia."

X-rays showed that there was fluid around his lungs and heart, which led to the pneumonia diagnoses. He was given medicine to treat his symptoms, but that didn't help. David was convinced it was more than pneumonia and kept pursuing an answer. "It then got to the point where I had to check myself in to the hospital," he says.

David was then referred to Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus, where after a series of tests, cardiologist Evan Kransdorf, M.D., Ph.D., told the father of three that, in fact, it wasn't pneumonia. Instead, he learned that his heart was failing. "He had a very weakened heart due to what we call dilated cardiomyopathy," Dr. Kransdorf tells ABC 15. "The heart becomes dysfunctional and has low pumping function and as a compensation for that, becomes very large and dilated."

And in David's case, Dr. Kransdorf says, it meant he would need a heart transplant. "For most patients with heart failure and reduced squeezing function, medications and devices are effective in managing the symptoms and in also stabilizing the heart function," Dr. Kransdorf says. "But some patients do progress and are not responding to medication. And for these patients, that's when we start thinking about heart transplantation."

It was a shocking diagnosis David says he never saw coming. "I was in denial when Mayo told me I needed a heart transplant," he tells ABC 15. "I figured I could beat it. Just take medicine and get better." Unfortunately, that would not be the case.

After his diagnosis, David was placed on the transplant waiting list until a matching donor could be found. And about three months ago, he underwent a successful heart transplant surgery at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus that he says has not only left him feeling "thankful and blessed," but also has given him a new appreciation for the importance of organ donation. "I'm living proof of the importance of being an organ donor," he says. "I'm still here. I'm still living. I plan to go back to work and be a firefighter again. I can still raise my family. So it's really important."

Watch more of David's story below. You can also share your comments below, and then use the handy social media tools to share this story with others.

Tags: Dr Evan Kransdorf, heart transplant, Patient Stories, Uncategorized

Dear Dr Kransdorf
Last May 25 2015 I had my initial bout of epigastric pressure which over the course of several weeks developed into a choking sensation. I was initially diagnosed of suffering from acid reflux and was given antacids. In Augst 8 i was admitted to Southlake Hospital because of severe abdominal pressure and choking sensation to the point that I can hardly breath. After 24 hours of confinement i was discharged without any findings. In Sept 8, my blood vessels on both sides of my neck became highly engorged and pulsating and the epigastric pressure and choking sensation became ever more pronounced. I was admitted at Toronto General Hospital and I was diagnosed of congestive heart failure due to left ventricular cardiomyopathy. My lungs, heart and liver were filled with excessive fluid that caused the epigastric pain and choking sensation, not acid reflux as was earlier misdiagnosed. My egfr is 45% and a blood clot in my pacemaker was detected. I do nit know if I would be a candidate for heart transplantation or if ever my heart is capable of healing.


Dear MedMateo – So sorry to hear about your medical struggles. We can’t diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this website. If you would like to seek help from Mayo Clinic, please call one of our appointment offices (Arizona: 480-301-1735 Florida: 904-953-0853 Minnesota: 507-284-2511).

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