Virginia Beach man gets a new heart just in time for Valentine’s Day

Matthew Ferreol received his new heart on Jan. 19 and is in good health. He's expected to make a full recovery and live a long life. (Melanie Occhiuzzo/Southside Daily)
Matthew Ferreol received his new heart on Jan. 19 and is in good health. He’s expected to make a full recovery and live a long life. (Melanie Occhiuzzo/Southside Daily)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Matthew Ferreol has a new heart, and just in time for Valentine’s Day.

He received the transplant on Jan. 19, but the journey to his new lease on life didn’t come – to say the least – easy.

Hearing his new heartbeat for the first time was amazing for Ferreol.

“I was like, wow, there’s no humming or anything,” he said.

At 34, Ferreol, of Virginia Beach, was diagnosed with heart failure but through a series of procedures and the gift of a new heart he’s been able to keep living his life to the fullest.

Ferreol started experiencing shortness of breath, the inability to hold food down and swelling in March of 2010, and after a visit to the doctor they were able to determine he was experiencing heart failure.

Initially, after the diagnosis of heart failure, his doctors at Sentara Heart Hospital tried medication, but Ferreol didn’t respond.

So, doctors recommended a heart pump.

He was fitted with a HeartMate II Device in April 2010, which was then followed by a few replacements up until Dec. 2018.

Being on the heart pump, known as a Left Ventricular Assist Device (L-VAD), was an adjustment for Ferreol but he said he was determined to not let it slow him down.

His first thought, he said, was “how am I gonna live with this thing,” but after an adjustment period he figured out how to keep living his life the way he wanted with the L-VAD.

He had to quit his job and stop playing his favorite sport — basketball — but he still continued to try and do the things he loved like coaching high school girls basketball and travelling.

The biggest thing he wants people to know: you can live a normal life with an L-VAD and you shouldn’t let it hold you back, he said.

Instead of fitting him for another L-VAD in December, his care team decided to put him on the transplant list for a new heart.

He had “maxed it out” by living his life, joked Ferreol.

He’ll still have to go through Cardiac Therapy and a series of heart biopsies to make sure his body is taking the new heart transplant well

So far, things are going well, he said.

He’s looking forward to his new chapter of life with his new heart and encourages everyone to know and understand their heart risks, symptoms and family history.

Ferreol is expected to make a full recovery and be able to resume living his life the way he did before the heart transplant and L-VADs, said Dr. David A. Baran, a physician on Ferreol’s heart care team.

“He was a good candidate for the transplant and he takes really good care of his body,” Baran said. “He’s going to live a very long life.”

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