A Heart Transplant Success StorySeptember 2017
By Jon Vanzile
his wife, Maria.
In 2001, Humberto Fasano received a staggering diagnosis: he had severe cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure (CHF).
With these conditions, the heart muscle becomes flabby and stretched out. As a result, its pumping ability is weakened, and not enough oxygenated blood is circulated to the body, causing symptoms like exhaustion and arrhythmia. The condition is considered degenerative and incurable, meaning that once someone is diagnosed with congestive heart failure, there is no way to restore their heart function back to its normal level.
Doctors measure CHF by tracking the size of the left ventricle and by measuring how much blood it expells with every contraction, a measurement known as the “ejection fraction.” In general, doctors consider an ejection fraction above 55% to be normal.
Fasano had an ejection fraction of just 14%. And at 10.5 centimeters, his left ventricle was the largest ever recorded at the University of Miami Health System.
Based on this grim diagnosis, Fasano needed to be on the heart transplant list. Doctors told him that 50% of CHF patients usually die within five years of being diagnosed.
But Fasano, who says he always maintains an optimistic and hopeful attitude, wasn’t buying it. Instead of giving in to his diagnosis, he decided he would fight back and do everything he could to survive. Today, more than 15 years later, Fasano is thriving—and he’s always happy to tell the story of how he managed to outlast a chronic, seemingly hopeless diagnosis with the help of first-rate cardiac care and Life Extension®.
“I was never in fear or depressed,” Fasano says. “ ‘Give up’ is not in my dictionary, period.”
The Road Back
Initially, Fasano experienced symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue while performing everyday activities such as climbing stairs. In the short term, to help relieve his symptoms and support his weak heart, his doctors recommended immediate placement of a left-sided pacemaker/defibrillator. This device regulated his heart rhythm and, if necessary, shocked it back into a normal rhythm if something went wrong. Two years later, the device was upgraded to a biventricular pacemaker/defibrillator, which provides more comprehensive support to keep a normal heart rhythm.
While the devices went to work and Fasano adapted to an aggressive program of prescription drugs to reduce his symptoms, he launched an all-out effort to find relief. In 2004, “by the grace of God,” he came across an Internet forum where people with congestive heart failure were singing the praises of an orthomolecular therapist in Holland named Corrij Kooij. According to her patients, Kooij had developed a special program of supplements that was able to increase their ejection fraction by up to 15%.
“I immediately wrote Corrij and asked if she could help me,” Fasano says. “She accepted and requested I fill out a questionnaire, in addition to sending her my last two blood lab reports. She performed this service at zero cost to me.”
After reviewing his case, Kooij recommended a program of nine highly-targeted nutrients and supplements. These supplements (see sidebar) were designed to make his heart stronger by increasing intracardiac energy and to help his heart function more efficiently. The list included stalwarts like coenzyme Q10, magnesium, potassium, R-lipoic acid, and vitamins C and E. Each of the recommendations was backed up by extensive research showing a positive effect on cardiac function.
Naturally, Fasano wanted to make sure he was getting the best supplements possible. At the time, he was already taking a few supplements from Life Extension, so he wrote Kooij back and mentioned that he was taking Life Extension products already and did she have a particular brand she recommended. In his letter, he remarked that he would go anywhere in the world to obtain the very best.
“If she said I needed a Japanese supplement, I was prepared to go to Japan to buy it. But she immediately wrote back and said, ‘Humberto, here in Holland my husband and I take Life Extension,’ ” he recalls. “I found all nine products within Life Extension’s line-up.”
This recommendation would end up launching a long-standing relationship between Fasano and Life Extension—but first he had to make sure his health didn’t deteriorate.
In 2014, 13 years after his diagnosis, Fasano had already outlived all expectations, but he was still looking for every advantage possible. That year, he signed up for an experimental stem-cell study at the University of Miami.
Unfortunately, the treatment didn’t have the effect he’d hoped for. Later that year, with his condition worsening, he had to pull himself from the program. That autumn, he had two serious emergencies, one in October and one in November—then three more in January 2015.
By this time, it had become obvious that Fasano would have to take the next step. He would need a heart transplant. He applied to the Mayo Clinic Transplant Program and was accepted. While he was waiting, he spent several months taking a class of drugs called inotropes and, in summer 2015, he received a left-ventricular assist device, or LVAD. This specialized device acts as a kind of mechanical heart. LVADs were originally designed as a “bridge to transplant,” for short-term use, but recent advances in technology have stretched the horizon of time people can survive with an LVAD device. This was excellent news for Fasano and gave him time while the search for a donor heart began.
In January 2015, Fasano and his wife moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where the Mayo Clinic transplant hospital was located, to wait for his donor heart. With his typical optimism, Fasano loved Jacksonville.
“I spent months within 15 minutes of the heart transplant center,” Fasano says. “And I’ll tell you, we had a great time. I didn’t have any dietary restrictions anymore, so I told my wife, ‘Let’s go find all the good restaurants!’ So we did, and there are some great restaurants in Jacksonville!”
But that doesn’t mean it was easy. While they waited, Fasano’s doctors continued to refine his medication program, and his symptoms posed a daily challenge. He was tired more often and dealt with the side effects of his medications.
“I was limited physically,” he said. “I couldn’t run or go upstairs. I couldn’t do a lot of the things I used to do. But emotionally, I never had a problem.”
Finally, that autumn, Fasano got the news—a suitable donor heart had been found. On November 18, he received a new heart.
It was a huge step forward, and it began his journey back. Eighteen months after his transplant, Fasano felt much better and has been able to participate more fully in life.
“I have been able to go back to most of my normal activities, including work, walking every day, enjoying my family, and helping others as much as I can,” he says. “I also participate in a foundation in Panama that raises funds for people who need a transplant.”
Fasano’s Lasting Connection with Life Extension
More than anything else, Fasano is deeply grateful for all the help he’s received.
“I owe my new life to God and his team first, including my caregiver 24/7 for sixteen continuous months: my wife Maria, who never had one complaint and never got tired. I still cannot believe her strength and persistence. My brother Max was also 24/7 dedicated to taking care of me uninterrupted. I’m extremely thankful for my doctors, my nurses and the whole medical team at Mayo Clinic and University of Miami, as well as the prayers of my family and friends. I’m also grateful to Corrij, my angel, and to Life Extension for the supplements I took for more than 10 years to control my illness.”
In fact, Fasano was so impressed with his results that shortly after he started his supplement regimen, he reached out to Life Extension to set up an appointment with the international team. Soon after, he became a general distributor for the company in Panama—a position he continues to hold.
“When I started this journey, I knew very little about vitamins and supplements,” he says. “I was a civil engineer who worked in construction and project management. Distributing Life Extension products was something I started on the side, but now it’s grown, and I’m doing great.”
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.