Dennis Carranza has faced more than his share of healthcare challenges. At 42 years old, he is rebuilding his life after undergoing a heart transplant earlier this summer. The Montreal born son of physician parents was training for a half-marathon when he first noticed something didn’t feel right.
“My cardio was sometimes getting labored, even swimming became an issue,” says Dennis. But it was on a trip with his wife to Mexico that he knew there was something seriously wrong.
“I was on the plane with my wife, and I felt like I was drowning every time I closed my eyes. I remember walking to our hotel room and asking her, are you getting winded as well? And she said no, of course not! We knew I had to see someone as soon as we got back to Montreal,” he remembers.
Dennis credits his team at the MUHC with saving his life several times over. The MUHC’s Chief of Cardiology Dr. Nadia Giannetti has been following him since he was diagnosed with heart failure in 2012. Heart failure is a condition that occurs when the heart is not able to efficiently pump blood and oxygen to the body, causing symptoms like shortness of breath. Dennis had a defibrillator implanted, but after a short time it was no longer enough to keep his heart functioning properly. He needed a new heart. But, in order for Dennis to be eligible for a heart transplant he had to lose a significant amount of weight. His weight had been climbing steadily following his heart failure diagnosis.
“At times it was depression; I didn’t want to go out. I was really heavy; I didn’t feel comfortable in my clothes. When I was 400 lbs. I would be dripping sweat, so I didn’t feel comfortable in social gatherings,” he explains.
Dennis underwent gastric bypass surgery, and began to walk up to 20, 000 steps a day around the MUHC grounds in preparation for his surgery, hoping against hope that a match would be found. When that call came, Dennis and his wife Josephine Nicdao were elated. After a harrowing medical journey, and countless setbacks, they say they are now eternally grateful to their organ donor for this second chance.
“The transplant has given me a totally new way of looking at things. I am feeling better, I’m able to play sports again, I can fly in an airplane, and I can work. It feels like I’m back to being myself again,” says Dennis, who hopes to meet his donor’s family one day to say thank you.