Heart transplant helps Raisin Township woman return to more normal life

  • " 'Thank you' is not enough," Paula Deitz of Raisin Township says of the heart transplant she received on Dec. 9.Telegram photo by Vicki Schmucker lenconnect_com |

    ” ‘Thank you’ is not enough,” Paula Deitz of Raisin Township says of the heart transplant she received on Dec. 9. Dietz is holding a decoration that will be used in a bowling tournament fundraiser at Ten Pin Alley & Big Mike’s in Tecumseh on Saturday, Feb. 20.

  • If you go

    WHAT: Bowl-A-Thon fundraiser for Paula Dietz
    WHERE: Ten Pin Alley and Big Mike’s, 5621 S. Occidental Highway, Tecumseh
    WHEN: 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20

    Daily Telegram Special Writer
  • Posted Feb. 14, 2016 at 1:00 PM

    RAISIN TWP.

    At first, Paula Dietz thought she was having a gallbladder attack.

    But then a series of tests revealed that the abdominal pain, shortness of breath, swelling and palpitations she experienced had nothing to do with her gallbladder at all — it was her heart. She had non-ischemic viral cardiomyo- pathy, a condition that weakens the heart to the point where it cannot pump blood properly.

    A range of factors can cause cardiomyopathy. In Dietz’s case, as the word “viral” indicates, it’s believed to have been caused by a virus that attacked the heart muscle.

    After her June 2014 diagnosis, Dietz was put on medication, including diuretics that caused her to shed 20 pounds in retained fluid, and started a regimen of cardiac rehabilitation exercises at ProMedica Bixby Hospital. But her condition worsened, and a new echocardiogram revealed that whereas previously the left side of her heart was affected, now the right side was as well. “It felt like every day I was dying,” she said.

    Dietz’s only hope was a heart transplant, and she went on the transplant list the week of Thanksgiving 2015. Then, on Dec. 9, she received a call from the University of Michigan Health System to inform her a donor heart became available.

    “It was a miracle to get one so fast,” Dietz said, “and my heart was almost on its last legs.”

    Just four hours after she was taken into surgery, Dietz had her new heart. And 13 days of postoperative care later, she was back at her Black Highway home with her 8-year-old son, Dylan, and her mother there to help out.

    “We had the best Christmas,” she said. Because the family missed out on part of the Christmas season, they even left decorations up longer than usual so they could all enjoy them.

    Two months after her surgery, Dietz continues to work to regain her strength with the help of Bixby’s cardiac rehabilitation unit. “I have to give a shout-out to them,” she said.

    While she still gets short of breath, that’s a vast improvement over her pre-transplant days, when she couldn’t even stay awake for more than a couple of hours at a time. Before her transplant, too, her nose and extremities were always cold, and she couldn’t eat anything solid because her stomach couldn’t receive enough blood flow.

    “You don’t realize how sick you were until you start to feel better,” she said.

    Dietz, who previously worked as an X-ray technician in Chelsea and as a massage therapist, expects she may be able to work again in about a year. But while insurance took care of the transplant itself, the associated costs remain staggering. Just the medication she will need to be on to prevent her body from rejecting the heart will cost between $2,000 and $5,000 every month for the rest of her life

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