Former Wiscasset woman ‘whole new person’ after heart transplant

Posted:  Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 10:15am
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With the heart she got in Boston in June, Kim Emerson has to wear a face mask into stores and wash a head of lettuce with spring water, not well water, because bacteria is a heightened enemy: Her immune system had to be socked to keep it from fighting the anonymous gift she is grateful to have.

The permanent changes and the temporary ones have been a lot to learn, and the mask gets hot. But that's all fine by the former Wiscasset woman since doctors at Tufts Medical Center took out her heart pump of 364 days and her pacemaker of nearly three years and replaced her heart: "Physically, I feel so much better. I feel like a whole new person.

"I can go through metal detectors again. And I don't have to carry all those bags and batteries. I just have so much more energy." And thanks to the long-awaited transplant, she gets to see daughter Kandace, 6, grow up, Emerson, 35, said in the kitchen of her parents Mike and Tammy Fiore's home off West Alna Road in Wiscasset Friday.

"Six months ago, I could see how bad she was getting. She was tired all the time," her mother, interviewed separately, recalled. In 2017, Emerson had a stroke, blot clots and other problems. "And now I can start planning her Christmas presents. It's a new lease on life" for the family, Fiore said.

Emerson, of Washington, has also beaten cancer three times, losing a kidney in one bout. She got the call about the heart transplant June 13. She thought she was just being told about her next appointment. The caller had to tell her multiple times. "I was in shock. Then it clicked, and I started crying," Emerson said.

Mike Fiore has provided an EZ pass for the tolls for trips to the hospital. And Emerson's aunt, The Cubbyhole owner Carla Chapman, has helped on gas. Some heart recipients spend months hospitalized in recovery, Emerson said. She was out in nine days. She's been returning for followup visits, which can now change from Tufts to Portland's Maine Medical Center, where she recently got treated for pneumonia.

Since the transplant, she thinks a lot more positively, she said. "And I thank God every day." Her parents and husband Travis have been her best friends and support system throughout her years of medical ordeals, and still are both to her, she said.

Neither Emerson nor her mother know what they would say to the donor's family. But Emerson is trying to write a letter the transplant program could offer them. It is hard, she said. "I couldn't be more grateful. I'm speechless. What do you say to someone who gives you a heart? There are no words to thank them enough."

"I'm in a state of awe," her mother said. "Words would fail me."

All Emerson knows is the donor was in New England, no age, gender or other information. That's all confidential, she said. Someday she would like to meet the family, if they want.

Playing with her daughter on the Fiores' living room floor Friday, Emerson talked about maybe taking her to a corn maze in Warren that weekend and Wiscasset's scarecrowfest next month. Kandace stayed in Maine for her final days of kindergarten while her mother had the transplant. But they have talked about it.

"I feel awesome (about it), and my favorite part about this now is that she gets to go swimming," the Washington first grader said.

Emerson explained to the Wiscasset Newspaper, she cannot go in a lake or pond the rest of her life, due to the bacteria, but six months after the transplant she can go in saltwater or a pool.

"Six months? It's already been six months," Kandace, smiling, said as she continued making a hovercraft from pieces of a barn and horses toy set.

Smiling back, Emerson told her, "It's only been three months, honey."