Nacogdoches woman on heart attack: 'it felt like my heart was going to quit'

Wendy Tarver says she was one of the first people to do the LV Parachute (Source: KTRE Staff)
Wendy Tarver says she was one of the first people to do the LV Parachute (Source: KTRE Staff)

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Two years ago, a Nacogdoches woman found herself sprawled out on the floor of Walmart, gasping for air and clutching her chest.

At first, Wendy Tarver, 41, said she began seeing spots, and then she began to feel dizzy.

"My jaw was hurting. I felt like my shoulder was hurting and it almost wanted to go down my arm, but it really wasn't. It was just mainly in my jaw," said Wendy Tarver.

The pain was startling, she said, especially since she had never had any prior heart problems.

"I just one day had really bad heartburn and I worked at the hospital so I kept going to the ER all day; they never really did anything for me," said Wendy Tarver.

Finally, she said she called her husband, Charles, who rushed her to the ER at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital one more time. There, she said, she waited for six hours before doctors told her she had suffered a massive heart attack.

"They put a pulse dosimeter on her finger and it was like 22 or something like that. It's supposed to be 96 or higher, and they pretty much said she's having a heart attack," said Charles Tarver. "That's when the wheels started turning. They started turning on lights, unplugging her bed and her IV. They rushed her to the Cath Lab. She was in the Cath Lab until about four in the morning and the doctor came out and it was bad. It was real bad."

Wendy was sent to Methodist Hospital in Houston where she found out her heart attack was a "freak accident," all because a tiny, piece of blockage got into her artery stopping her blood flow, she said.

"It's depressing. But as I mean, you're whole life has changed forever," said Wendy Tarver.

During her stay in Houston, Wendy said she found out she was at stage III heart failure, meaning she could have limited physical activity. Once she was released, Wendy said she was desperate to find a cure for her ailment and that's when they found out about a trial of the LV Parachute in Little Rock, Arkansas. The LV Parachute is a seemingly successful heart failure device used in Europe, she said, adding that she was hopeful it would work.

"It just didn't do very well for me, and instead of it being a couple of day's procedure. I was there for eight days," said Wendy Tarver.

She felt as if she was wasting away, she said, so she asked her husband to take her back to Houston.

"I couldn't even walk ten feet without totally giving out," said Wendy Tarver. "I would get short of breath. I would just start sweating. I mean, my heart just felt like it was going to quit."

Wendy stayed at Methodist for about a month until they put in a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), which acts as a mechanical heart.

"They put in this big, heavy machine in your chest and that's what's moving your blood around," said Wendy Tarver.

She wore the LVAD for seven months, she said, and then Methodist called her with some good news. On November 11, 2013, Wendy received a heart transplant.

"Oh. It was so scary. You know, I was thinking 'Is the heart going to work?' because when they take out my heart, it could go either way," said Wendy Tarver.

Each day is different for Wendy, she said. But things are better, she adds.

"It seems like every day you get a little better. I mean, there are days where I feel like not getting out of bed, but for the most part, I get up. I'm doing more and I'm able to go to [my son's] ball games like before there was no way I could've got dressed and went," said Wendy Tarver.

Now, Wendy is happy to spend each day with her family, and said she hopes to meet the family of the heart donor one day. She also said she would like to start up an East Texas group for those recovering from heart failure and heart-related issues.

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