Military Mindset Helps Woman Navigate Heart Transplant

Patricia Faison | Heart recipient

As an especially active person, Patricia Faison does not seem to fit the mold of someone likely to need a heart transplant. She played basketball during her 20 years in the U.S. Navy. Then after retirement, working with sailors and marines at Naval Base Norfolk, she continued biking over 20 miles a week. In fact, she rode for 15 miles without feeling tired.

Patricia Faison on her bikeA month later, everything changed. “I was coming home from work like normal,” said Patricia. “Being a spiritual person, I heard a quiet voice. It persistently told me you need to get checked out.”

Her medical team was puzzled. They ran a series of tests, which led to Patricia being admitted. They advised against her going home to get her overnight bag or tend to her new kitten. They couldn’t believe she had driven herself to the facility. Patricia later learned that she had gone into heart failure. “It was like a rollercoaster from then on,” she said.

Patricia underwent a procedure coupled with medication, but it did not seem to help. Finally, with her heart working at only 14% capacity, she was transported to a local heart hospital right before Thanksgiving. By early December, she received a new heart. There were some bumps in the road, and Patricia was in the hospital for four months, including time for rehabilitation.

During her period of recovery, she also provided support and then end-of-life care for her mother. Later she had to navigate traveling and planning a funeral, while still keeping all her own medical appointments. It was a challenging time, and Patricia leaned into her spirituality and training to get through. “As a military person it is just ingrained in you to keep taking steps,” she said. “You just keep rolling regardless of whatever cards you’ve been dealt.”

Today, the journey has all been worthwhile. Patricia is thriving and fully able to care for herself and her kitten, Cassius, now a full-grown cat. She is back to lifting weights, walking, and riding her bike. Above all, her fresh perspective brings her joy. “I have a new appreciation for living and day-to-day things that some people find mundane or take for granted,” she said.

Patricia remains strong in her faith, and she believes sharing her story can help others. She volunteers with Sentara Heart Hospital and participates in their monthly group meeting, which provides support to recipients and those awaiting transplants. She even inspired her cousin, an anesthesiologist, to register as an organ donor. “It may touch one person to hear about a recipient,” said Patricia.

She has reached out to her donor’s family to express her gratitude. “I let them know that I stepped up and volunteered to serve this country – and your loved one stepped up for a great cause as well, for giving the gift of life. It is truly a blessing!” said Patricia.