Hope & Spirit Honoree: Michael Knight
If you had met Michael Knight last year, you would have seen him as a healthy 29-year-old man with a contagious smile and wonderful sense of humor. That was only partly true: Michael, who had until just the year before worked as a carpenter building homes, was suffering from end-stage dilated cardiomyopathy. The disease had so severely damaged his heart muscle that a transplant was his only hope. Michael was placed on the transplant list and this spring, physicians at Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin’s Cardiovascular Center surgically implanted a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) to buy him more time.
An LVAD is a battery-powered device that helps the heart pump blood. Says Kristin Dressler, RN and a member of the Cardiovascular Center’s staff, “Michael had to be brave and face the emotional stress of knowing that once this complicated device was placed, he would have to live with it until the transplant.” Living with the LVAD was a daily challenge. Even getting out of bed was difficult, but Michael’s determination, and the support he received from his wife Jean, and son Alan, got him through the more than three months the device was in place. Dressler says “Michael was an inspiration to others who face the same challenge and shows that people can live with this complex device.”
On June 25, 2005 Michael received the call that a donor heart was a match. “As he went into surgery, he gave us a big smile that seemed to say ‘thank you,’” says Dressler. Michael continues to pursue recovery, although he has had major post-transplant complications. As when he lived with the LVAD, Michael faces each set-back with courage. Says Dressler, “We pray for Michael not only as our patient, but also as our friend. Through it all, he has shown true hope and spirit.”