Heart of the Matter
With her husband awaiting a heart transplant, Andrea Hampton found the strength to spread the word about organ donations.
How many of us can look to a specific date on the calendar and know it was a day that changed our lives? Andrea Hampton, who is a senior manager in Deloitte Services LP Talent Acquisition based in the Boston office and serves as the national Consulting campus recruiting leader, and her husband, Greg, certainly can: It was August 22, 2013. That’s the day Greg received a heart transplant, and Andrea became an even stronger advocate for organ donation.
In the fall of 1993, three years before the couple even met, Greg first became aware that he had a heart disease. It was called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart muscle to thicken, making it more difficult for it to pump blood. Like many patients with this condition, Greg had lived with it asymptomatically for many years.
“We learned in 2007 that Greg’s underlying condition had become active, and for the next several years, he was hospitalized on a number of occasions,” says Andrea. “In the spring of 2010, his doctor told us that his heart function was at 35 percent and that a transplant was no longer a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’”
The “when” arrived on February 22, 2012, when Greg was officially placed on the heart transplant list. Nearly one year later, February 6, 2013, Greg was admitted to the Boston area’s Tufts Medical Center with end-stage heart failure. With his heart functioning at only between 10 and 15 percent, he was placed on the highest priority status for a transplant.
Waiting and hoping
“There are no timetables available in a situation like that,” says Andrea. “There are just so many variables that it really is impossible for the doctors to predict how long you may have to wait for a transplant. We were aware of that going into Greg’s hospitalization, but in our minds we really thought it would be three or four months.”
But as the months passed by, the emotional burden for the couple increased. Throughout this ordeal, Andrea balanced as best she could the demands of her work and team, while managing her household; taking care of the couple’s two Samoyeds, Goose and Stoli; and visiting the hospital to be with Greg.
“Andrea never let on that anything significant was on her mind,” says Kelly Brastrom, a talent scout for Consulting and colleague of Andrea’s. “She kept her head down and always pushed forward. Her perseverance was inspiring, and, as we learned the seriousness of her family’s situation, her example motivated us to handle any difficulties at work that came our way.”
Andrea is quick to point out that the support she received from her Deloitte colleagues made all the difference. She was provided flexibility in her work hours to allow her to be by Greg’s side and, in the first week of August, she took a leave of absence.
"I came to the conclusion that I not only needed more time to be with Greg, but I needed to start taking better care of myself,” says Andrea. “It was hard for me to leave the office, especially with the team headed into the busy fall season, but everyone was wonderfully supportive. They all said, ‘We’ve got this. Now go!’”
So, Andrea went on leave, and three weeks later Greg got the call – and a new heart. It was August 22, 2013, some six and a half months after he entered the hospital, and 19 months to the day since he’d been placed on the transplant list.
Remarkably, Greg was out of the hospital and home just 12 days later. He faces a long recovery period, especially given that his condition had forced him to lead a relatively inactive lifestyle for nearly two decades. He has a cardiac rehab regimen, and, while all of his postoperative tests so far have been positive, he and Andrea must live with the knowledge that his body could reject the new heart at any time.
But they also live knowing that an organ donor has given Greg hope for the future. That has strengthened Andrea’s commitment to support the organ donation cause.
Finding her voice
Andrea recognized that she could make a difference by helping to spread the word about the importance of organ donation and its impact on families across the country. Initially she hit her social network hard – sharing the couple’s story in a blog – and eventually found her voice as an advocate for the cause.
During Organ Donation Awareness Month in April 2013, Andrea helped organize an event at a local jewelry store that generated $15,000 in sales in just two hours. She was also joined by some Deloitte colleagues in fielding a team for the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk in September.
But it was an incident at the hospital – thanks to Goose and Stoli – that really opened her eyes to the importance of sharing her story. Andrea would often take the dogs with her to visit Greg and other patients. One day, as she was leaving the hospital with the dogs, another woman got on the elevator.
The woman was admiring the large, furry, friendly dogs and asked Andrea why they were at the hospital. Andrea told the woman about Greg’s need for a transplant, which sparked an interesting conversation. The woman told Andrea that her husband had agreed to be an organ donor, but that she was turned off by the idea of it.
In what is surely one of the most effective elevator pitches in history, Andrea was able to share her perspective on the value of organ donations and their importance to many people – including her husband. By the time they walked out of the hospital, the woman acknowledged that she had changed her mind.
A couple of weeks later, as Andrea was walking through the hospital’s parking lot on her way home for the night, that same woman happened to drive by. The woman stopped her car, lowered her window, and told Andrea that she herself had registered to become an organ donor. “That, to me, is what it’s all about,” says Andrea. “To have changed even one person’s mind about organ donation means the world to me.”
Andrea’s efforts are being recognized in other ways as well. She was recently recognized by the American Heart Association as a “Top Walker” in 2013 and the sixth highest individual fund raiser for the year’s heart walk. Her work colleagues also recently recognized her efforts by presenting her with the Deloitte Standard of Excellence Shared Services Beanpot Award recipient for 2013. The Beanpot awards are a formal award ceremony held each year during the Boston town hall meeting that recognizes people who have been extraordinary performers in several different categories. Andrea was recognized for her excellence at work and for the inspiration she provides to those who work with her.
“This experience has made me much more aware of the impact each of us can have,” says Andrea. “We all work so hard and focus on what we are doing, but it’s also important to take stock of what really matters to each of us and never to take even one single day for granted.”