Dawn Rollins

First post: Dec 12, 2022 Latest post: Sep 18, 2023
Welcome to our CaringBridge website! We will be using this site to communicate updates to family and friends so that Chip will be able to keep his focus on Dawn and her recovery. Please know that we appreciate your support, prayers, and words of encouragement and hope.

Dawn’s story:

Dawn was born with Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy (HOCM) but was not diagnosed until she was 17 years old thanks to her school nurse. With HOCM, you are at a high risk for cardiac arrest so from that point on, she saw a cardiologist regularly and took medicine daily.

Over the years, she’s had changes in medicines, various procedures and a pacemaker/defibrillator implanted. At the age of 49, Dawn had her first A-fib episode and her second came at age 50. The A-fib episodes started to occur more frequently and with each one, she had to be hospitalized and cardioverted which is where they shock the heart back into normal sinus rhythm. Her doctor suggested an ablation which is a procedure that uses heat or cold energy to create tiny scars in the heart to block the faulty electrical signals and restore a normal heart rhythm. However, during the pre-testing for this procedure they found that her mitral valve needed to be replaced and she had a blood clot in her heart. In December of 2020, she had open heart surgery to replace the mitral valve, remove the blood clot and perform the Maze procedure. The Maze procedure is a type of ablation where the surgeon creates a pattern (maze) of scar tissue on the heart using a scalpel or a device that delivers heat or cold energy. The surgery was a success and for about six months, Dawn felt great!

In June of 2021, the A-fib was back and after several cardioversions, the A-fib would not go away. She was put on some strong medication to help lower her heart rate, but this was not a long-term solution. It was at this point that the doctors discovered that Dawn had developed a rare side effect of the Maze procedure called Pulmonary Vein Stenosis (PVS). PVS is a rare and serious condition in which there is a blockage in the blood vessels that bring blood from the lungs back to the heart. This blockage is caused by an abnormal thickening of the walls of the veins. Everyone is born with three to five main pulmonary veins and Dawn has five. Two of the five were completely occluded at this point and the others were getting narrower. The doctors determined that she would need another ablation but this one would be more dangerous to perform so she was referred to Duke.

Duke performed the ablation, and it took about five hours. Thankfully, Dawn was out of A-fib, but unfortunately, she still wasn’t feeling better. In addition, the medicine they had her on caused her to develop hypothyroidism which is an underactive thyroid. They were able to take her off the strong medicine but now had to prescribe her something for her thyroid.

Because Dawn still had no relief, the doctors at Duke decided to try putting a stent in her other pulmonary veins. This procedure was quite eventful. Dawn had an allergic reaction to the Fentanyl they used to help put her in a twilight state so after itching and getting sick, they put her completely out. In addition, the doctors were only able to get a stent into one of the pulmonary veins and discovered that she had developed pulmonary hypertension which is when the pressure in the blood vessels leading from the heart to the lungs is too high. Sadly, this procedure did not provide any relief either.

There was no more that this team of doctors could do so they sent Dawn to Duke’s transplant team. It was determined that the best course of action would be to evaluate Dawn for heart and double-lung transplant. If they only did the heart or only the lungs, she would not get the relief she needs. Dawn went through a week-long series of tests and both she and Chip met with a nutritionist, social worker, psychologist, transplant coordinator and both transplant teams. It was at this point they found out that if Dawn is a candidate, she would be required to relocate to Durham for six to nine months and have a steady caregiver with her at all times.

The decision was made that Dawn IS a candidate for transplant, however, there was still much to do so Dawn was sent home with a list of tasks to complete before the follow up appointment on December 12th. These tasks included attending cardiopulmonary rehab three days a week to increase strength and stamina, getting a tetanus booster, covid booster, flu shot, Hepatitis A & B vaccine, a colonoscopy, and lose 20lbs. Duke also required Chip and Dawn to raise a minimum of $15,000 to help cover any uncovered medical expenses as well as relocation expenses. Currently, all tasks are complete except for the cardiopulmonary rehab and weight loss which is still ongoing. Also, with the help of so many friends and family, Chip and Dawn has been able to raise $30,000 which will cover most of the expenses! They are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of love and support. Please continue to pray – thank you!

Next update will come after Chip and Dawn receive the results of their December 12th appointment.

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