In need of a helping hand

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By Kirsten Laskey

Patricia Ann Trupp-Hampton of Los Alamos has always helped others. In the past, she worked as a candy-striper at Los Alamos Medical Center and was a licensed practicing nurse from 1977-1981 at the center.

Now, the tables have turned. Trupp-Hampton needs a helping hand in the form of a heart donor.

In 2006, Trupp-Hampton was heading to work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory when she was caught off guard with shortness of breath and a pain that reached her left elbow.

She still didn’t feel good when she arrived at the office so she called her husband, Gary to tell him she was going to the hospital.

At LAMC, it was discovered that her EKG, or electrocardiography, which is a recording of the electrical activity of the heart, was not normal so Trupp-Hampton was sent to St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe.

At St. Vincent, a cardiac catheter was done. A catheter is inserted into the heart for investigational and interventional purposes.

Through this procedure, Trupp-Hampton said it was discovered that her left ventricle was having problems

A normal ventricle, she explained, empties 55 percent of the blood in the heart chamber with each beat. Her ventricle was only emptying 35 percent.

She was started on heart medication and began seeing Dr. Sandoval.

As her health continued to fail, it was decided in January to give her a pacemaker with a defibrillator. It was supposed to be a one-day procedure at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque.

However, Trupp-Hampton said a pacemaker has three leads and her doctor was only able to get two wires in. The third one, which goes between the right and left heart ventricle, wasn’t inserted because of her crooked veins.  

So, Trupp-Hampton had to undergo surgery.  Although the surgery went well, Trupp-Hampton said she woke up with a heavy chest. On further examination, she had thrown a blood clot from her right leg to her right lung.

Trupp-Hampton is currently on oxygen and while her doctors hoped the pacemaker would solve the problem, it didn’t.

As a result, she and her husband were sent information from United Health about what hospital they could go to for a heart transplant.

She wanted the hospital to be close, so they decided on the University of Arizona’s University Medical Center in Tucson.

Trupp-Hampton went through another cardiac catheter, an evaluation, interviews with the medical staff and had psychological testing.

“My husband was worried about that,” she joked.

After a few months, she was accepted into the transplant program.

When she was first accepted, in February 2008, she was the ninth person on a list. By December she was number five.

Trupp-Hampton explained they match donors and patients according to blood type, weight, etc.

Her excitement about receiving a new heart died because of IA and IB patients. IA patients, she said, are those who are in the hospital and really need an organ donation. IB patients’ needs aren’t as great.

Trupp-Hampton is a IB patient so she continues to wait for a new heart.

Waiting has not dampened her spirit, however. She said she and her husband have gotten closer and the little things in her life have become more meaningful.

“We are always thankful when we wake up in the morning,” she said. “It’s a beautiful day.”

Not everything is rosy. Trupp-Hampton said she is not out in public a lot because she gets sick easily and she had to take medical retirement from the lab.

But, she said, “we are so blessed to have so many friends who have been so helpful in bringing meals, offering to drive me here and there.”

Trupp-Hampton said the Women’s Christian Bible Study did her grocery shopping all last spring. She added her friends have started fundraisers to help offset some of the costs of the medical bills, traveling expenses, medication and the medical flight out to Albuquerque.

A fund has been established at Los Alamos National Bank called Patricia Ann Trupp-Hampton Medical Fund.

“Everybody is supportive of us,” she said.

Friendship is one of the things that Trupp-Hampton credits for helping her get through this experience. “The belief of God, my husband, for sure and friendships,” she said. “There’s always someone I can call, talk to. This town is very helpful.”

Trupp-Hampton is a long-time Los Alamos resident who graduated from high school in 1968. In 1990, she was reunited with her high school sweetheart and they were married in 2001. Her son, Brice Espinoza, her daughter-in-law, Natalie Espinoza and her grandson, Jacob Dalton, live in Houston.  

She encourages people to become a donor.

“The thought of helping someone else out … the excitement that person would see through your eyes – could just be a precious thing,” Trupp-Hampton said.