NAPLES — After years of heart problems, operations and frequent hospital visits, the former chief of Sebago EMS has received a heart transplant.
Tim Smith, who also has served as the fire captain of Buxton Fire and Rescue, underwent surgery April 16 and “everything went really, really well,” said his wife, Shauna Smith. “The heart did great, it was a beautiful heart. It was a perfect match for him.”
Smith, 44, lives in Naples with his wife and their 3-year-old daughter. He also has a 16-year-old son. They learned in February that a heart transplant was the only option left for him after an angioplasty, many stent insertions, video-assisted thoracic surgery and other procedures for his coronary artery disease failed.
Since then, he has been hospitalized multiple times and physicians at Maine Medical Center in Portland recommended he go to Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut.
On March 29, the family arrived there for his formal transplant evaluation, but he “was in such rough shape, they ended up sending him to the emergency room directly and then up to cardiac intensive care,” Shauna Smith said.
On April 3, Tim was confirmed on the transplant list as status 4, with 1 being the most urgent and 6 being the least urgent. However, on April 7 he suffered another heart attack and was put on a balloon pump, a mechanical device that helps the heart pump blood.
As a result, his wife said, a few days later he was upgraded to status 2.
“On the 16th, he got a call at 5 a.m. saying that they had a heart for him,” she said.
Smith is doing well. His breathing tube was removed April 20 and his medications have been decreased from six to only one.
On Monday, “he had his chest tubes removed. He finally was able to get out of bed for the first time since he had the pump,” his wife said in a telephone interview from New Haven.
She hopes he will be discharged in two to three weeks, and because there is a transplant physician at Maine Medical Center, she hopes to have most of his followup appointments in Maine.
In addition to being on immunosuppression medications for the rest of his life, Smith will also have to undergo frequent cardio catheterizations, which will check for the body’s rejection of the donor heart.
Shauna Smith said they don’t know much about the donor except that he was a 31-year-old male. They are allowed to communicate with the donor family through letters with no self-identifying information and plan to do so after Smith has healed.
“We may or may not hear from the donor’s family, but we’re obviously very hopeful that we will so we can thank them for their generosity. Their family is part of our family now,” she said. “We’re really grateful to the donor’s family.”
Both Smith, who has also been a fire instructor throughout Southern Maine, and his wife are currently out of work. Anyone interested in helping the family can donate via their GoFundMe, called “Former Fire Fighter Needs a Heart Transplant,” or visit www.savetimsmith.com to purchase T shirts, hooded sweatshirts and stickers made specifically for Tim.
Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at email@example.com.
Tim and Shauna Smith before his heart transplant surgery last week.