Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 5:45 am | Fair 49º


Local News

Awaiting Heart Transplant, Goleta Man Increasingly Optimistic about Future

Bryson Williams, 20, now at highest priority on list for surgery to fix cardiomyopathy

Bryson Williams is waiting for the phone call that will literally save his life.

The 20-year-old Goleta man and his family have been awaiting news that a heart has become available for the transplant he’s desperately needed for the past year. His family is hopeful that by the end of the month, Williams will be notified and will head down to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for the surgery. But until then, they’re waiting, with bags packed.

“It could be any minute,” Williams’ mother, Debbie Williams, told Noozhawk last week.

Williams has cardiomyopathy, so the left side of his heart doesn’t pump enough blood, and he had a device, called a left ventricle assist device, or LVAD, implanted 10 months ago.

When the pump was first put in, Williams’ heart was operating at about 10 percent, a rate his mother described as “basically dead.” Williams had gradually recovered since the pump was installed, and doctors thought he’d be able to survive its removal. They were optimistic that Williams’ heart had nearly made a full recovery. But during surgery over the summer, doctors tried to remove the pump from one side of his heart and discovered the other side didn’t respond well.

Finding out that the pump’s removal wasn’t successful was hard on the family.

“It was devastating,” Debbie Williams said. “We were shocked.”

Williams, too, was initially discouraged by the news, but Debbie Williams said he gathered himself and decided, “We just have to face this head on.”

“We looked back, and he really hasn’t felt well for about three years,” she said.

Williams had seizures periodically since he was 16 months old, and after suffering an aneurysm while in high school, he underwent an open craniotomy to repair his brain. He has the highest priority on the transplant list because he’s been deemed healthy enough to handle the surgery with a high success rate. Right now, “he feels great,” Debbie Williams said. “He’s really healthy.” In fact, the mother-son duo participated in the 2010 Start! Santa Barbara Heart Walk on Saturday.

Williams told Noozhawk he was excited about the surgery, and also a bit impatient.

“I would like to not wait,” he said, adding that he’s excited to get back to the life most young adults take for granted.

“I want to get somewhat of a normal life back, without machines in my room and stuff,” he said. He added that he’s most excited to get back to skateboarding, which he hasn’t been able to do since he had the LVAD installed.

Because Williams’ heart is constantly being sustained by a machine, he has a battery backup pack if he ever needs to leave the house. His parents also had a new circuit installed in their house that won’t interfere with the machine should the power go out. Nurses from Cedars-Sinai have come up to train members of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Williams’ parents and nurses from Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The cost of Williams’ treatment is still somewhat of a concern to his family. In December, when he turns 21, he’ll see if he qualifies for Medi-Cal. The transplant should be covered by the family’s health insurance, although medications for Williams could cost up to $21,000 per year.

The Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute has performed more than 500 transplants since its inception, and the family will stay about a month in Los Angeles after the transplant, as Williams recovers.

Until then, they’ll be waiting for that call.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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