Scott Wilfong, now 64, again lives a healthy and active lifestyle with his wife in Merritt Island, Florida. They spend their retirement swimming, walking in half-marathons and paddle-boarding the Banana River.
But it took Scott 45 years to get there.
When he was a senior in high school, sitting in the last class of the day, he first experienced an event that he would be struggling against for the rest of his life. “My heart just took off,” he said. “It was flying, about 180 beats a minute.” For years he exercised for health and did “vagal maneuvers” to artificially slow his heart rate—sometimes as much as 10 times a day. But when he caught pneumonia twice in 2018, his active lifestyle stopped.
Doctors had no new medication options for him, and when he came into AdventHealth Orlando during Hurricane Dorian in 2019 for a routine examination they were amazed that he looked and acted as healthy as he did. His heart, over years of high-pressure events, had expanded into a blob. When his heart beat, for example, blood flowed back into the organ because the vessels were too large to close completely.
Scott and his wife waited and waited. They went through test after test, and Scott remembers that when he was declared eligible for a transplant it was “like an event” and nursing staff celebrated as though he’d won a marathon. Scott Wilfong received heart from a generous organ donor and left the hospital after 46 days.
“Everyone was exceptional,” he said. “Every nurse that I had was top notch, every physical therapist was right on top of things.”
Six weeks later, he walked 3.1 miles at the November 9 Heart Walk in Orlando, hosted by the American Heart Association and sponsored by AdventHealth, where he received his care.
“The 46 days, it was relatively easy to me,” Scott said. “It didn’t seem like that big of a heart ache.” Wilfong said he was especially thankful for AdventHealth Orlando Bartch House, which is an affordable housing area on campus for transplant patient families.
“If there’s something that I needed, or would like, or that would make it easier for me, all I had to was ask. I told one of the doctors, this bed isn’t very comfortable,’ and within a few hours I had a new bed.”
Now, when he gets his biopsies he pays a visit to the nurses at the three hospital units he stayed in, to show them the product of all their hard work—his life. He also visits a few of the patients who may be struggling with his same problem.
“I tell them, ‘I was sitting exactly where you’re sitting now. Don’t get discouraged. If they allow you to get up and walk around, do it. If you can walk, do it. Don’t just sit and wait—do it.”