NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Her tour of duty brought her to the front lines of war.
Then Holly Audet returned to Bristol, only to find herself in the midst of a personal battle. The U.S. Army veteran needed a heart transplant.
Proud to wear Army fatigues, the trained combat medic Audet, served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where she absorbed the reality of war. “I dealt with it but you put on a mask to separate yourself.”
That courage was put to the test, shortly after the 27-year-old left the military to come home. “I developed this really bad cough,” she said.
Extensive testing led to the diagnosis of end stage heart failure, cardiomyopathy. Dr. Dan Jacoby, Medical Director of the Advance Heat Failure Program at Yale-New Haven Hospital, explained, “It means that the heart has become so weak that it can’t sufficiently pump enough blood to supply all the organs and nutrients that they need so the organs start to fail.”
It was a condition not detected while Audet was in uniform. “My EKGs would be abnormal but it wasn’t anything so serious that you would need to get it looked at.”
“In a way she’s done all the service for everybody else, said Dr. Jacoby. “Now we’re able to do something for her.”
Audet needed a heart transplant. The mechanical pump Dr. Jacoby implanted was not enough to keep her alive.
“It was really tough for me, especially those 60 days I spent in the ICU because people were dying,” she said. Now, Audet is walking, thanks to a donated heart two days ago, and planning on a career in nursing.
Dr. Jacoby said, “You might say as a young person, 20 years is very limited and it is but in comparison to the survival she would have had without the transplant, which we were talking about days.”
Faith, family and hospital staff empowered Audet through the dark days. The gift of life fuels her determination to make every second count.
Tears choked back, Audet said, “It’s the worst feeling, to know that they are no longer going to be here but I promise you, I swear on my life that I’ll do the best I can with this life I’ve been granted with.”
Audet had a cousin with the same condition, who also had a heart transplant.
The genetic center at Yale-New Haven Hospital is looking to see if the gene behind it can be identified. If so, doctors can help the family with detecting and treating the risks.