IDAHO FALLS — Renowned Utah pianist and heart transplant recipient Paul Cardall, has organized a GoFundMe campaign to help a Pocatello woman who’s in heart failure and the medical bills are piling up.
Mandy Dutton was born with Ebstein anomaly and has had six open-heart surgeries during her life. This rare heart defect causes a valve in the heart not to function properly and leak blood, which if not corrected can lead to heart failure. On top of this, she’s been diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a condition that causes rapid heartbeat and can lead to more serious complications.
“This is my life. I don’t know different,” Dutton said. “But now that I have kids, it is different.”
On April 24, Dutton had a procedure to replace her pulmonary valve that had been leaking a bit and hadn’t been changed in about 10 years. Dutton, her husband and four children (three are adopted because the risk she ran of carrying a child) had plans to vacation in Utah after the procedure. But what was supposed to be an overnight stay turned into a week and a half in the Intensive Care Unit.
Her body did not respond well to the procedure and her kidneys shut down, forcing her to go on 24-hour dialysis.
“That’s when the doctors were like, ‘This is serious. Even though we did the valve replacement. Things aren’t looking good,’” Dutton recalls the doctors telling her.
Never once in her 36 years was she told a heart transplant might be necessary because the doctors said they could repair the heart. After the procedure though, she was immediately informed she needed to get her name on a heart transplant list. Dutton met with a transplant coordinator, doctors and did the tests needed to get on the list. Unforunately, those tests revealed more problems that made her an extremely high-risk patient to have on an operating table.
“When they were doing all my workup, they found liver damage, and then lung damage,” Dutton said.
Five hospitals in the West that perform heart transplants know about Dutton’s case and none of them are willing to operate on her, because of the extent of the damage. They say it’s too complicated and the chances for survival aren’t high enough.
Despite what she is being told, Dutton remains full of hope in part because of Cardall. The two of them met at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City in 2009. The then 36-year-old Cardall, who was born with congenital heart disease, received a heart the day Dutton had a surgery scheduled. That pushed her surgery to the next day because the two of them shared a surgeon.
Throughout the years they have stayed in touch. Dutton looks up to him and believes if she can receive a heart transplant as Cardall did, everything else will work out. Cardall is known for his piano compositions and unique arrangements of classical, religious songs. He dedicated his ‘O Holy Night’ rendition on his Christmas album to Dutton. He sees more in her than she knows.
“She’s amazing. She is such a gentle, pure soul,” Cardall said. “She is another one of those too good for this world people, which is why we need her.”
Dutton, along with her husband Bryan, are doing everything they can to keep her healthy. Plan A is receiving a heart, but with no success so far, plan B is creeping into reality. The couple is exploring the option of moving to a place with a lower elevation, like Washington. That way pressure on her heart from fighting against gravity and her oxygen dipping due to Idaho’s elevation might help her heart not have to work as hard.
“I just want to be a grandma. I will do whatever they (doctors) say,” Mandy said. “I want to see my kids grow up and them become parents. That’s my goal.”