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Transplant recipient speaks at kickoff for heart walk in Pa.

July 15, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -Two-year-old Zackary Reynolds clapped enthusiastically after his mother spoke Thursday at the kickoff for the Franklin/Fulton Heart Walk, perhaps too young to realize how money raised for heart research made his life possible.

"It's because of associations like this that I was able to have two beautiful sons," said Jamie Reynolds, the Red Cap spokeswoman for the Sept. 25 American Heart Association Heart Walk in Greencastle, Pa. Red caps worn by participants in the 4-mile walk signify they are survivors or relatives of those who have had heart disease or strokes.

Zackary and his 1-month-old brother, Wesley, do not have heart disease, but it nearly took the life of the girl that became their mother. Stricken by a virus that infected her heart, she underwent a heart transplant in 1989 at the age of 12.

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"I just started having some chest pains and coughing," Reynolds, 28, said of her illness. Diagnosed as a sinus infection, she was treated with antibiotics, but the condition of the sixth-grader continued to deteriorate.

Even after her illness was correctly diagnosed, doctors were unable to restore the function of her heart, which had been reduced to 15 percent of normal, she said.

"You're going to need a transplant to live," Reynolds said she was told by doctors at Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center. She became the first child to receive a heart transplant at the hospital, she said.

The heart of a 13-year-old New Jersey boy killed in an accident saved her life, she said. Reynolds later met the family, an experience "I cannot even give you a word for."

The care she received inspired her to become a nurse in pediatric intensive care at Hershey, where she found herself caring for other children who underwent transplants.

Now an oncology nurse at Chambersburg Hospital, Reynolds said the technology and anti-rejection drugs used in her follow-up care have greatly improved.

Doctors told her the transplanted heart might last 10 years, but now place no limits on how long it might function.

Reynolds mother, Cindy Shatzer, said her daughter placed no limits on her life after the transplant.

"She was gung-ho. She wanted to be a cheerleader," Shatzer said. Jamie also ran track less than a year after her operation.

"With a little bit of strength and a lot of faith, you can do anything," Reynolds said.

The goal of this year's Heart Walk is to raise $125,000, said Sharon Strike, the association division's director of corporate events.

The goal for last year's event was $75,000, but the final tally exceeded $100,000, Strike said.

For more information about the Heart Walk, call the American Heart Association at 717-263-2870.

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