Health Care

Dennis Zavett's Double Transplant Miracle

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a photo of Dennis Zavett

Over seven years ago, Dennis Zavett was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) and was told he only had 2-5 years left to live. IPF is a progressive, life-threatening lung disease and currently there is no cure. For the entirety of Dennis’s career, he was a singer and guitar player. When he was told that he probably would never sing again, he took those words as a challenge. He knew there was a way through his diagnosis and decided to do everything he could to fight against it.

Initially, Dennis was put on oxygen and took monthly visits to the Mayo Clinic while they looked for a long-term option to his IPF. A lung transplant was considered initially, but there was some uncertainty with Dennis being 72. Surgeons were not sure if at his age, the lungs would be accepted by his body or if he would even survive the surgery in the first place. After looking for second and third opinions on his condition, he landed at Duke Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. At the time, Duke was one of the few places that accepted transplant patients over the age of 65.

After a weeklong physical and mental health work-up at Duke, Dennis discovered he had a blockage in two arteries of his heart in addition to his failing lungs. This additional information made him unable to receive the surgery from Duke Hospital and any other facility that had previously considered him a candidate. Heartbroken at the news, the Zavetts had one more option left. During their time at Duke, a transplant surgeon Dennis had met with contacted Doctor Duane Davis at AdventHealth.

When Dr. Davis was asked to perform the surgery, he asked Dennis to go through a pulmonary work up to see if he had a chance to be given a transplant and double bypass surgery simultaneously. Dennis’s condition was worsening by the day, but he never got close to calling it quits. He continued to fight and would even take his oxygen tank to the gym to get exercise. His optimism was warranted because after all the work, Dennis was listed for his dual surgery. There was still a bit of waiting to do and Dennis always maintained respect for the process, even telling his family, “Someone has to die in order for me to live. Let’s not forget who else is involved in this process.”

Three days after he was listed, a donor was found for Dennis’s surgery. In the middle of the night, the Zavett’s headed to the hospital to support Dennis and after a six-hour pre-operative procedure, he was ready for his dual surgery. After nearly ten hours in the operating room, Dennis came out with new lungs and a repaired heart. He spent thirteen days in the hospital and after his breathing tube was removed, Dennis was at 100% oxygen, a feeling he had not experienced in a long time.

After exceeding his rehabilitation expectations and finishing in just three months, Dennis is now exercising regularly by taking walks before the sun rises. He also shows his gratitude for the care he received at AdventHealth by volunteering, mentoring other transplant patients, speaking at many conferences and making financial gifts to help with projects like the Bartch Transplant House. Gifts like his help other patients receive the same life-giving care he experienced.

We are thankful to the Zavetts and their continued support of AdventHealth. If you would like to give back for the care you or a loved one has received, you can donate to our transplant assistance fund here.

3 photos of Dennis Zavett

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