Woman celebrates 30th year with donor heart

Published: Aug. 28, 2017 at 5:40 PM CDT
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A woman from Papillion has beaten the odds after a heart transplant. Cindy Schabow just celebrated her 30th year of survival – that makes her one of the longest-living transplant patients in Nebraska.

“I hadn't really realized how bad my heart was,” said Schabow.

Thirty years ago, a virus weakened Cindy Schabow's heart. Her condition got so bad, her doctor said she needed a heart transplant.

“That was pretty much of a shock because, at that time, I didn't know of anyone who had a heart transplant. I didn't know anybody who knew anybody who had a heart transplant,” she said.

Heart transplants were so revolutionary then, only a few hospitals nationwide did them. Cindy traveled from the metro to Houston, Texas for her surgery.

“During that time I had declined very rapidly. And they later told me I probably would have lived 24 more hours without the heart,” Schabow said. “So when they came in and said 'we have you a heart' it was just the greatest news ever.”

The transplant was a success. Now – 30 years later – her donor heart is still beating strong.

“On average a heart transplant will last 14 years. It's unusual for anyone to live this long,” said Dr. Brian Lowes.

Dr. Brian Lowes is a cardiologist at Nebraska Medicine where heart transplants are now routine and where Cindy gets regular check-ups.

“Cindy is remarkable not because she has lived 30 years with her heart transplant. She's remarkable because of what she's done with the 30 years she's had,” said Lowes.

Since her transplant, Cindy has raised a daughter, helps take care of her three grandchildren and she co-founded a support group for transplant patients.

“We wanted to help other patients and families that were going through this. We wanted to honor donor families. And we wanted to spread the word that transplantation really works and encourage people to sign up as organ donors.”

Cindy’s donor was a teenage boy who died in a swimming accident. Just a few days ago she met his family over the phone. She hopes to meet them in person soon. Find more information about organ donation

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