Joyce Cantrell, a Morgan County native, has a sweet smile that makes you feel so comfortable. Unfortunately, the worst of health problems affect even the best of people. Joyce spent several years battling congestive heart failure and arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat. To overcome each hurdle, she tried a variety of treatments and medicines, even a pacemaker defibrillator implant.
In late 2017, Joyce had arrived at Central Baptist Hospital for pacemaker surgery. After preparation, she was waiting patiently to be taken back into the operating room. Time passed and a hospital representative prompted an unusual conversation. Just days before, Joyce’s insurance company had called her to confirm their approval for the surgery. As Joyce was sitting in her hospital gown, the representative said that the surgery would be postponed because insurance did not follow through. Overwhelmed and scared, Joyce waited until her doctor could come and visit. The day had passed without the implant, leaving her doctor to prescribe another medication (Tikosyn) and discharged her.
Not long after Joyce returned home, she knew something wasn’t quite right. Joyce was home alone, walking through her house to the kitchen. In those few steps everything went black. Quick communication with her cardiologist led her off the new medication and into a rescheduled pacemaker defibrillator surgery.
2017 was coming to a close. On December 26, 2017, Joyce vividly remembers sitting on the couch with her grandson. “I was exhausted, so I leaned over on the couch. I closed my eyes and seconds later I grabbed my chest. I knocked everything off the side table; something had come over me. In that instance I could feel my heart changing its beat. My pacemaker had suddenly kicked in… I knew then it had saved my life.”
Despite abbreviated success, Joyce’s health continued to decline. “My doctors tried everything, but my health just kept getting worse. That’s when I was transferred to UK Hospital,” Joyce said.
In January of 2018, Joyce’s doctor had to discuss a hard truth with Joyce and her family. Joyce would be put on another medication for a period of time, but the only real solution was a new heart. “This is something I would never have dreamed of. In that moment, it sounded unreal that I needed this to live,” Joyce said.
Two months later, in March 2018, Joyce’s name was added to the waiting list. Nearly seven months passed before Joyce was presented with a glimpse of hope. October 7, 2018, at 64 years old, Joyce answered the phone to what would be the call that changed her life.
Joyce quickly packed her bags and arrived at the University of Kentucky Hospital, waiting eight to nine hours before she was taken back for surgery preparation. Early in the process Joyce was given anesthesia. Moments later, Joyce surprisingly fell into cardiac arrest. An unknown allergic reaction caused her to become even more vulnerable. Her medical team treated the reaction and moved her into transplantation surgery.
Nearly eight months later, Joyce is back to feeling like a new and improved Joyce! “I am doing great and can do more than I could before! I play with my grandson, walk more, and go anywhere I want to,” Joyce said.
Joyce understands the power of organ donation. “My son was registered as an organ donor well before this ever happened to me, but I honestly hadn’t thought a lot about it. Once you have been through this process yourself, it makes it so much more personal. It hits home.”
Her attitude is incredible. To this day, Joyce is smiling and making others feel so loved. “If I can help someone in any way, I am more than happy to.”