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Amanda Goehring — UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute Patient Story

The Challenge: An Almost-Deadly Virus

Amanda Goehring and family.The virus that attacked Amanda Goehring’s heart in 2003 landed the then 23-year-old hairdresser in the hospital, weak and close to death.

After being transferred from her community hospital, she awoke from unconsciousness at UPMC Presbyterian attached to a heart assist device — a pump that helps a failing heart circulate blood. It was her best hope for staying alive long enough to receive a heart transplant.

Amanda was in good hands. UPMC’s Heart and Lung Transplant program is among the oldest and most respected in the United States.

The Path to UPMC's Heart Experts

Even in the hands of seasoned experts, a heart transplant is a daunting experience. Amanda and her family prepared for an uncertain journey ahead.

There was one more slim hope: that her inflamed heart could heal itself while the heart pump did its work.

Robert Kormos, MD, cardiac surgeon and director of the UPMC Artificial Heart Program, had successfully weaned a small percentage of patients from artificial heart pumps as their resting hearts regenerated. Amanda Goehring became one of those fortunate few.

Her heart recovered to such an extent that she was able to avoid transplantation, and even the heart pump was eventually removed.

But Amanda’s story wasn’t over.

Just months after her heart recovered, she veered into uncharted medical territory again when she informed her cardiologist — Dennis McNamara, MD, director of the UPMC Advanced Heart Failure Center — that she was pregnant.

“Dr. Mac was going to have a heart attack when I told him I was pregnant,” she says.

Nobody knew whether it was safe for her to deliver a baby, because almost no one with her medical history had done it before.

Dr. McNamara and Dr. Kormos watched and waited as she thankfully went through an uneventful pregnancy. On August 5, 2005, she delivered a healthy son, Brody.

“Brody is just an amazing kid. He loves going to preschool, playing dek hockey, and holding doors open for people leaving the grocery store,” says Amanda. “I know that he's the reason I'm here because he's going to do special things.”

The Results: A Full Recovery and Second Lease on Life

Today, nearly six years after having open heart surgery, Amanda looks back on her experiences and is grateful.

She's grateful for:

  • Landing in the hands of UPMC's expert heart doctors.
  • The innovative treatment that allowed her to have a full recovery.
  • The second lease on life that blessed her with Brody and her husband, Doug Brewster, who she married on December 31, 2008.

Amanda says:

“It’s very humbling to realize that without my doctors, without the care that I received at UPMC, I might never have had Brody or met and married Doug.”

Saving Lives through Research and Expertise

Amanda’s is just one of the many stories of lives saved or made better because of the pioneering research, clinical expertise, and novel collaboration that happen every day at UPMC.

UPMC has weaned about 20 such patients from heart assist devices to date. 

Specialists, including Dr. Kormos and Dr. McNamara, hope these cases will offer lessons on heart regeneration that can help treat patients with heart failure as well as other heart diseases. They are currently involved in research aimed at quantifying these experiences and developing treatment protocols to benefit heart failure patients from across the country and around the world.

Amanda Goehring’s once failing heart can testify to this exceptional care:

“For me, this was a life-changing experience that didn’t end when I left the hospital,” she says. “I thank God every day that my doctors were blessed with the talents and skills to save my life.”

» Read more stories from UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute patients like Amanda.

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