Grandmother Gets a New Heart, and Stays Free of COVID-19, Thanks to Caring and Careful Mount Sinai Team

Elma Lowe, a Brooklyn resident, mother of four and grandmother of four, had been struggling with advanced heart failure for years. In January 2020, Elma’s heart condition worsened. She was admitted to The Mount Sinai Hospital, where her cardiologist, Sumeet Mitter, MD, did an expedited work-up for a transplant, and an intra-aortic balloon pump was implanted to help her heart pump blood. She was prescribed immunosuppressant medications as part of her preparation for the transplant, to help keep her body from rejecting the new heart. But these medications would put her at higher risk for infections, including COVID-19.

In February, just as the pandemic was starting to hit New York City, Mount Sinai found a new heart for Elma. Anelechi Anyanwu, MD, Professor and Vice-Chair, Department of Cardiovascular Surgery performed the complex surgery, which went through without a hitch. Elma stayed in the hospital for a month after the procedure.  But a heart transplant entails meticulous post-surgical care.  The patient must be checked regularly for signs of rejection. For Elma, that meant weekly lab tests and biopsies. Coming into the office involved two trips: one day for a COVID-19 test, then the following day for the cardiology appointment.  At a time of escalating cases of COVID-19, it was an anxious time for Elma and her family.

Dr. Mitter’s office took extra precautions to keep Elma safe, and she has remained free of COVID-19. Whenever possible, she and Dr. Mitter communicated by video visits. Her office appointment were scheduled for 6 am, when fewer people were around. All the physicians and technicians wore full personal protective equipment.  And Dr. Mitter revised Elma’s monitoring plan so follow-up biopsies were required for only two months instead of the usual three. Elma handled this situation “like a champ,” Dr. Mitter said in a story about her care on Brooklyn News 12. “She was magnificent.”

Elma is thrilled with her Mount Sinai Hospital team and her new heart. In fact, she has become an advocate for organ donation. “I never wanted to be an organ donor. I feel that you should go back to God the way you came,” she said. “But now that somebody saved my life, I have a different perspective.”