Heart transplant patient finding motivation through competition, music and the Mayo Clinic community

Mark Forbess taking part in the piano in the Mayo atrium

The fall

It was Good Friday 2023. Mark Forbess was simply leaving Mayo Clinic in Florida after his first appointment as a brand new patient at the coronary heart failure program, when the whole lot went black.

“I found myself on the pavement in front of Mayo Clinic,” says Mark. “I was emerging from unconsciousness. Everything was dark. I opened my eyes to see that my face was pressed onto the hot, black pavement.”

People close by ran to his assist as he skilled excruciating ache in his head, again and neck. From there, he was rushed to the emergency division in the building he was simply leaving.

Mark had skilled a devastating coronary heart electrical occasion.

Where all of it started

At round 33 years outdated, Mark was recognized with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a illness wherein the coronary heart muscle turns into thickened. The thickened coronary heart muscle makes it more durable for the coronary heart to pump blood.

“Over time, my heart health began to decline,” says Mark. “The coronary heart failure was devastating episodes of atrial fibrillation (AFib) and ventricular tachycardia (V-tach). During this time, I skilled 4 V-tach episodes which required my implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to deliver me again to life, along with eight cardiac ablations.”

In the fall of 2022, he was referred to Mayo Clinic for a PET scan to search for different coronary heart ailments. At the time, nothing was discovered that met Mayo Clinic’s coronary heart failure remedy standards, so he was not authorized as a cardiology patient. However, in March of 2023, after experiencing congestive coronary heart failure whereas being handled at one other medical establishment, he was referred to Mayo Clinic once more as a candidate for the coronary heart failure program.

The following month, he was authorized for the program underneath the care of Dr. Melissa Lyle, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist.

A candidate for transplant

After the emergency division triage, Mark recollects his heart specialist saying, “Congratulations, Mr. Forbess. You just won a ticket to be evaluated for the heart transplant program.” From there, he went through a battery of analysis assessments, which he handed, formally permitting him entry to Mayo Clinic’s coronary heart transplant program.

“I knew that when Dr. Lyle told me I was entered into the Mayo Clinic heart transplant program that God was in total control of my life,” says Mark. “He was guiding her and providing the confidence, from years of training, that I could live a happy life again by having a new heart.”

Within a month, Mark was admitted to Mayo Clinic and waitlisted for his new coronary heart. Transplant sufferers are ranked by necessity, and resulting from his situation, he was at the high of the checklist.

Mark had a uncommon coronary heart deformation wherein his left ventricle was very enlarged. This is taken into account uncommon in HCM sufferers as a result of their coronary heart partitions are often very thick and the ventricles are small. As a outcome, Mark grew to become eligible for a cardiac system — a small coronary heart pump that helped enhance his oxygen blood ranges whereas he waited for his coronary heart transplant.

The Daytona 500 meets the ICU

In an effort to raise the spirits of their sufferers and encourage some much-needed exercise, the nurses on Mark’s ground got here up with some competitive enjoyable.

“These patients are not your typical ICU patients,” says Sara Vilela, registered nurse. “They are often walking and talking, something we are not used to in the ICU. This means we have to make sure we are catering to this special patient population and ensuring that not only their medical needs are being taken care of, but also their social needs.”

Mark and fellow cardiac ICU taking part in dominoes

The nursing employees arrange a sequence of video games from dominoes to a “Cardiac Device 500” footrace between sufferers round the hospital unit, measured by the distance they walked every day.

“It was a bit of a leap to think playing games at a time like this was appropriate,” says Mark. “After all, we were in the ICU. When you showed up and participated, you were hooked. It was that much fun and necessary. No medical tests, no medicine and no bad news. Nothing but fun, and that’s always good for the soul. I participated in afternoon game sessions with other heart transplant patients, their families, my brother Jeff and the outstanding Mayo nursing staff. We looked forward to the opportunity to meet each other and focus our minds on something we had in common and away from our current health status.”

The video games have been an enormous hit amongst the sufferers, inspiring a lot creativity, particularly the races. They created names for his or her cardiac units, group logos and even faux sponsors. Mark named his coronary heart pump “Archie,” after his father.

Mark recollects being barely in a position to stroll a small lap at the starting of this journey. However, strolling extra and extra every day, motivated by a brand new coronary heart and some pleasant competitors, he started strolling about 5 to seven miles a day, even hitting a coronary heart pump file of 10.8 miles.

“By hosting game times, these patients were able to talk to one another about the struggles of waiting for a heart transplant, but also the triumphs, such as beating their previous day’s record of laps,” says Vilela. “They connected over this unique experience and bond with one another, which resulted in a patient population encouraging each other, remembering they are not alone on this journey.”

Inspired by reminiscences

Mark misplaced his spouse of practically 40 years, Michele, in June 2022, roughly 10 months earlier than getting into Mayo Clinic on the coronary heart transplant waitlist.

“I had spent many days grieving in the Mayo atrium over my wife,” he says. “I wanted to change that to positive, fun memories instead by providing a little entertainment playing the beautiful grand piano and maybe brighten someone else’s day.” He pursued the alternative to play with the encouragement of considered one of his nurses, Frances Ausley, and Rose Grace from the Humanities in Medicine Department. Grace is a live performance degree pianist herself who sometimes visited Mark in his hospital room to play the keyboard.

“Frances Ausley has incredible capabilities and a very hard work ethic while providing care to all those around her,” Mark says. “Rose Grace encouraged me and gave me the confidence that I could play the piano under these circumstances.”

While taking part in the piano helped, he nonetheless discovered himself battling nervousness and unhappiness round the anniversary of dropping his spouse.

“Managing anxiety on the one-year anniversary of my wife’s passing was going to be very difficult,” Mark says. “Wanting to celebrate her life outside, I was stuck in the ICU waiting for a heart, knowing that any high anxiety could trigger severe heart arrhythmia. Carolina Robles de Brady, a wonderful and thoughtful nurse from El Salvador, secretly arranged to reenact the dinner my wife and I had made on our first date — chicken cordon bleu with blueberry fluff as dessert. She asked me the day before about memories of a favorite dinner with my wife. I was pleasantly surprised as Carolina kept me calm while we celebrated my wife’s life.”

Later on, Mark would nominate Carolina for a DAISY Award, honoring nurses who go above and past to offer compassionate care to sufferers and households. She was chosen and acknowledged with the award in December 2023.

A brand new coronary heart, a brand new day, a brand new future

On July 14, 2023, Dr. Rohan Goswami entered Mark’s room. Expecting one other donor replace, the information was totally different this time. “I found you the perfect heart,” Mark recollects Dr. Goswami saying.

“I never had children, but I’m guessing this is one of the most exciting pieces of medical news you could ever receive,” says Mark. “After several months of waiting, Dr. Goswami is telling me I have a heart coming. It was an unbelievable experience. The sacrifice a donor family makes to give organs to another human being is one of the greatest acts of unselfishness and kindness a person can do on this earth. It’s real, and it’s effective. My donor family will be forever in my soul as I wake up every day thanking them in my prayers.”

Mark Forbess

Mark obtained his new coronary heart on July 17, 2023.

After greater than 30 years as an funding banker, Mark started fascinated with a long-term profession aim he’d all the time wished to pursue. Since childhood, he wished to be a screenwriter and filmmaker.

“Before I entered the hospital for my transplant, I purchased screenwriters professional software used to write film scripts and loaded it onto my computer,” says Mark. “I always wanted to produce films that would help people find true, long-term happiness in life. If I could write one particular story while waiting for my heart transplant, I would be a happy person myself.”

Since leaving the hospital, he has achieved this aim by finishing his first screenplay and has begun the course of of selling it to the movie trade. As for his health journey, he continues to excel at cardiac rehabilitation, decreasing drugs each month as his restoration progresses.

Paying common visits to Mayo Clinic employees since his transplant, Mark acknowledges that everybody he met whereas ready for his transplant helped make his expertise a very good one.

“During this time, I would meet many incredible nurses, doctors, physician assistants, housekeeping team members, Food Services team members and a host of other personnel who took great pride in their roles,” says Mark.

His interactions with all employees, even past his hospital room, grew to become an enlargement of his care group. Many share that Mark had simply as a lot of an influence on them.

“The power of food and how it changes the patient experience by broadening the scope of meal service providing comfort, connection and nutrition is a component of their care,” says Casey Wingerter, patient ambassador for Mayo Clinic Food Services. “During Mark’s stay at Mayo, meals became a medium for connection, and connection was critical for his transplant journey. He healed while at Mayo, and it was the people that made the difference. That human connection is what he held on to and is why he became a bright spot in our staff’s days as well.”

Mark recollects how a lot Wingerter and her group actually made a distinction. Before he left the hospital, he says the Food Services group gifted him a small suitcase stuffed with his favourite gum as a approach of claiming thanks from Wingerter and the Food Services group.

“I firmly believe God answers our prayers,” says Mark. “My hope is that my testimony can serve as a powerful tool for you to convey the profound significance of God in our lives. His presence can guide us through seemingly impossible challenges, which will lead to a truly long-term, happy life.”

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