Emergency Preparedness When Living with Heart Disease

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have devastated the lives of many in Texas and Florida, and now Hurricane Maria has wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico, leaving the island without power. This year’s hurricane season has highlighted the importance of emergency preparedness measures, especially for those with a chronic heart condition such as cardiomyopathy.

For families affected by cardiomyopathy, emergency preparedness is more than just stocking up on water and canned goods. Extra considerations need to be taken into account, and for those in need of a heart transplant, the level of preparedness can mean the difference between life and death.

Cardiomyopathy is a chronic and sometimes progressive heart disease, where the heart’s ability to pump blood in the body is compromised. Most children with cardiomyopathy need daily medications and some rely on a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator to regulate their heart rate. Any disruption to their treatment plan can be fatal, especially for those who are in end stage heart failure and in the hospital waiting for a heart transplant.

Cardiomyopathy is the number one cause of heart transplants, and according to the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) someone is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. In Puerto Rico, there are 464 patients on the organ transplant list, and in Texas where Hurricane Harvey hit, there are nearly 400 patients on the waiting list for a new heart.

Nineteen-year-old Brandt Kephart is one of them. Diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy at 7 weeks old, Brandt had a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) placed in his chest to help his weakened heart pump blood. Every night, Brandt has to connect his LVAD to a power source to charge the battery. Without power, Brandt’s life is in jeopardy.

As Hurricane Harvey approached, Brandt had to be evacuated. The four-day hurricane caused more than 300,000 power outages, including Brandt’s hometown, leaving Brandt on extended…

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