Nick Shaw, Rohnert Park
A weak heart is the last problem you need when you're a cement contractor putting in long, strenuous hours maintaining roads and freeways. But that was a health issue that Nick Shaw - a concrete construction worker in Rohnert Park - had learned to live with.
"I had a bad heart from birth," he explains. "My problem was cardiomyopathy, which in simple terms is an enlarged heart. It makes it difficult to breathe."
Nick suffered his first heart attack at the age of 35. After a brief hospitalization, he changed his diet and exercise habits and began taking prescribed medicines. Soon, he was back on the job and managing well. In fact, for the next 15 years, he had few problems. Then, at age 50, the second heart attack came - and everything changed.
"Basically, the first heart attack damaged the left half of my heart. The second heart attack got the other half," Nick explains. "I mean, my heart was gone."
His physicians considered several treatment options, including bypass surgery. But the heart damage was so extensive, there was only one promising solution: a heart transplant. That's when he was referred to the cardiac team at Sutter-affiliated California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco - where he was evaluated and approved for the heart transplant waiting list.
"My cardiologist said I needed the surgery right away - that they could only keep me alive for so long without it. I like straight talk, and I appreciated him telling me directly," Nick reflects. He waited only a month before a donor heart matching his rare blood type became available, and he underwent surgery.
"The nurses and doctors there - you can't say enough about them. They're like the best people in the world. I would not be here today without the whole team at CPMC. They literally saved my life. I'm a new person," says Nick.
Today, he is back in the gym lifting weights - and back on the job hauling concrete. "I feel a million percent better," he says. "I'm 52 now and I feel like I could easily go another 50 years. Mostly, I'm glad I'm here for my wife and four kids. Spending time with them is what makes it all worthwhile."
"I'm Nick Shaw and that's my story."
James Avery, M.D. Heart surgeon
Ernest Haeusslein, M.D.
Tomas Vasiliauskas, M.D. Sutter Medical Group of the Redwoods