CLEVELAND, Ohio — Lynn Ulatowski, 50, is a mom, an active marathon runner and a professor of biology.
In 2014, she was diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) — a progressive heart disease, “and they said that I would probably die of something else that this was a progressive disease that affected the electrical system of the heart but I could manage it with medications.”
Five years later, Lynn’s heart began to rapidly decline.
"Due to COVID,I had to wait to have an elective surgery to try to manage it a little bit better since the medicine wasn't working. So, finally, on June 29, I was able to have the surgery. And when they went in to do the procedure, they realized that my heart was really not working well at all.”
That surgery was at a hospital in Akron. Doctors there sent her to University Hospitals in Cleveland for further care.
“There were all these people that were there, waiting for me when I got there, and I was put in lucky 13th room and 13th lucky for me because it was one of my softball numbers, and it was the day that my daughter was born on the 13th, so I always considered that a lucky number.”
Doctors told Lynn she needed a heart transplant and within days, that lucky number 13 proved to be true.
“July 4th, they had a heart for me,” said Ulatowski.
She received a heart transplant the next day.
This year, University Hospitals named Dr. Yasir Abu-Omar as the Director of Cardiothoraci Transplantation at UH Cleveland Medical Center. Abu-Omar was a leading surgeon in the United Kingdom.
“All of us are focused on the benefit of patients, ... and the population of the region. There is a clear unmet need here; there's a lot of patients that, the more we look into it, there's a lot of patients out there with advanced heart failure. And that need is not fully met,” said Abu-Omar.
The heart transplant program at UH is growing quickly.
In 2019, the hospital performed 18 heart transplants—a record amount. This year they have already performed 19 and are on track to double their numbers from last year.
“UH comes from an excellent background in terms of the national ratings and the focus in the last decade in the United States has been really focused on quality. And for us, it's not just growing in terms of volume. It's also growing in terms of quality,” said Abu-Omar.
Abu-Omar says success stories like Lynn’s are what keeps them going.
“Having seen her when she first came into hospital when she was debilitated really at an increased threat in terms of losing her life, to now walking around with her sister and she came and give me a hug. And her sister asked if she could take a picture of us.”
A month and a half after her surgery, Lynn is walking her dog, cooking and baking.
“I’m making a lot of good progress. I feel like I'm definitely moving in the right direction and just not looking back. Now, I'm just taking this precious gift that I got and doing everything I can to make it the best ever.”
Lynn is grateful and said this heart has given her a new lease on life.