Lanette's healing journey and positive perspective
Optimism Motivated by Love
Lanette Lewis' physicians and nurses marvel at her positive outlook on life. At 32 years old, she's already battled cancer twice and received a heart transplant. Yet she's never let her health challenges affect her attitude.
Lanette's optimism is driven by her affection for her family. "I have to be positive," she says with a broad smile. "I have a daughter at home."
A year and a half ago, Lanette was doing her best to stay upbeat after the birth of her daughter, Savannah — but she was experiencing concerning symptoms. At first, she noticed that she felt especially winded going up stairs, and then her condition grew much worse.
Lanette found herself sweating and struggling to breathe just sitting on the couch. When she got up in the morning, the steps from her bed to the bathroom felt like a marathon. After making it to the bathtub, she would sit down hard on the edge, gasping for air.
Lanette underwent medical testing and was diagnosed with post-partum cardiomyopathy, an uncommon form of heart failure that occurs during or shortly after pregnancy. After a cardiac rehab program didn't improve her condition, physicians sent Lanette to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for more comprehensive testing and treatment.
Tears, Smiles — and a Healthy Heart
Lanette's mother, Rosemary, came along to her first appointment at Northwestern. They were both nervous about Lanette's prognosis, so much so that Rosemary started crying at the hospital.
Lanette and Rosemary both felt an immediate sense of relief when they met Kambiz Ghafourian, MD, MPH, the medical director of the Heart Transplant Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
"You know, just walking in — it was like a sense of calmness he brought to the room," says Lanette. "He's the best in his field. He's very skilled in his area of expertise, and that made my mom feel a lot better."
After Lanette received more tests, Dr. Ghafourian confirmed Lanette's diagnosis of post-partum cardiomyopathy. Because of the severity of her condition, he also approved her for a heart transplant. A heart became available shortly thereafter, and Lanette was scheduled for surgery on December 23, 2019.
At Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, psychological support from Gail M. Osterman, PhD, and the understanding demeanor of her heart surgeon, Amit A. Pawale, MD, put Lanette at ease as she prepared for a heart transplant. On the day of her surgery, she recalls how happy she felt speaking with the nurses as they wheeled her into the operating room.
"You always have a smile on your face despite everything you're going through," the nurses told her. "If we could just take some of that sunshine and positivity and spread it around the hospital, we'd make the world a better place."
An Unexpected Holiday
It wasn't easy recovering from a heart transplant, but Lanette stayed positive during her recuperation, with encouragement from the medical personnel at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She felt immense gratitude for the care she received: "Me receiving that heart transplant — that was my Christmas gift."
To help make the season bright, staff decorated the hospital with festive lights and ornaments. Nurses shared holiday greetings to keep patients' spirits high. Their kindness was especially meaningful to Lanette because she couldn't be with Savannah for her first Christmas. But Lanette was thankful she could have a video call with her daughter while she opened her gifts.
"Even though [the hospital staff] wasn't my original family, it was a new family for me to celebrate with," says Lanette. "The nurses, the staff, the doctors: Everybody was so nice and so helpful."
The Gift of Better Health
Lanette's can-do attitude kept her motivated throughout her recovery, and she was discharged from the hospital on January 2, 2020. Since then, she has continued healing at home while caring for little Savannah with help from friends and family.
At the one-year anniversary of her surgery, Lanette felt deeply grateful to have a healthy heart that allows her to keep up with her precocious toddler. "I couldn't have asked for a better team to work with," she says.
Her 2020 holiday celebration brought a smile to her face. She not only spent the holidays with her daughter for the first time, she also celebrated a year of wellness. She has made incredible progress on the road to recovery and is grateful to Northwestern Medicine for striving to offer her extraordinary care every step of the way.
Generosity from donors to the Northwestern Memorial Foundation enables us to provide leading-edge, compassionate care to patients facing unthinkable circumstances. Donor support helps us provide advanced care to patients facing organ failure so they can keep sharing joy with their families and communities.