A man of God, Dr. Wayne Guynn ministers to his congregation at Olive Branch Baptist Church in Blackridge, and he travels abroad to fulfill his mission. Yet, his faith was severely tested when at the age of only 49 his heart suddenly failed. Only one thing could save his life and return him to his family, his work and life as he knew it — a heart transplant.
In April 2016, Wayne returned home from a two-week mission trip to Ghana. Over the weekend he felt tired, short of breath and mildly ill. Thinking that his symptoms were due merely to the long flight and being a bit out of shape, he went about his business and worked Monday and Tuesday. But, by the end of the week and two trips to the emergency room at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, it became apparent that this was more than a mere case of jet lag. Wayne’s kidneys were shutting down and he was immediately transported to VCU Health in Richmond.
The doctors at VCU Health Pauley Heart Center quickly realized that Wayne was suffering from heart failure. The medical team could not find a direct cause, and determined that a virus might have attacked and damaged Wayne’s heart. The specialists initially hoped the problem could be treated with medication, but in a matter of days they realized more aggressive measures were needed. Several options were considered, from a pacemaker to an artificial heart called a “Freedom Driver” that would serve as a bridge until a heart for transplant could be located.
Ultimately, the treatment team determined that the best solution would be a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) — a mechanical device that is surgically attached to the heart and helps pump blood from the left side of the heart to the rest of the body. The LVAD was a temporary measure and a heart transplant would still be needed, so Wayne and his family settled in for what they thought would be a two- to four-year wait for a new heart. “The LVAD worked well and was nothing more than a minor inconvenience,” comments Wayne. “My life pretty much went back to normal.”
Unfortunately, that state of normalcy was short-lived. The Monday before Thanksgiving, Wayne suffered a mild stroke and was transported by medical helicopter to VCU Health in Richmond. “It’s hard to believe, but my stroke was actually a blessing in disguise,” he reflects. “I immediately moved up the list for a heart transplant from a priority B to an A.”
On May 14, 2017, Wayne and his wife, Sarah, were celebrating Mother’s Day in Richmond with their children, Ashleigh, Christian and Jonathan. During dinner, the family received the phone call they had been waiting for. Wayne was told to come straight to VCU Medical Center. A heart that was a perfect match was waiting.
The very next day, Wayne had his heart transplant, performed jointly by VCU Health’s Hume-Lee Transplant Center and Pauley Heart Center. His recovery was miraculous. He was discharged from the hospital after only 12 days, and subsequent heart biopsies performed periodically after surgery show no signs of rejection. “I’m feeling better and stronger every day,” he says. “I’m even back at work about three quarters of the time. We’re very fortunate to have access to this level of healthcare — starting here in South Hill and then up in Richmond.”
Wayne is now a real advocate for organ transplants, saying, “It’s amazing that one person as an organ donor can help many other people — and it makes perfect sense in the context of Christian faith.”
“I feel very fortunate to know another heart transplant patient right here in our community,” says Wayne. “Jimmy Murray, a friend and member of our congregation, received his heart 12 years ago. It’s encouraging to see how well he is doing and reassuring to think that I might have such a positive outcome.”
“This experience has had a profound effect — extending far beyond the scars on his chest and the 20+ pills that Wayne takes every day. “Now, when I hear my own heart beating, I am reminded that this heart once lived in someone else’s body and that a family lost a loved one. I was given a second chance at life. Now, I have to be a good steward of this amazing gift.”
To learn more about being an organ donor, please call the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center at (804) 628-0711 and speak with one of our living donor coordinators.
If you or a loved one needs an organ, contact the VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center at (804) 828-4104 or vcuhealth.org/transplant.