7 months after his last weathercast on News 8, and 4 months after his heart transplant, Scott Hetsko is ready to return to work. He’s grateful, and so are the doctors who helped save his life.
In the days before the Superbowl, Hetsko and Dr. Leway Chen share a joke about football. “Im a Seahawks fan,” says Dr. Chen. “I wouldn’t have had you treat me if I knew that!” Scott says. “I think (Scott’s) going to be better and stronger than ever,” says Dr. Chen. “So check with your newsroom that they can handle all that.”
This is a friendship forged between a once dying man, and the doctor who helped save his life. “Scott’s doing very well,” says Dr. Chen. “We’ve been very impressed with his recovery from surgery and also, with his progress in getting stronger. He’s doing better than usual for several reasons. One he kept himself in shape leading up to the surgery and he also has a force of will to get stronger, get healthier. That’s helped him to recover faster.”
Scott is one of 15 people who had heart transplants last year at URMC’S Strong Memorial Hospital. Dr. Chen founded the heart transplant program in 2001. It’s one of five heart transplant centers in New York State, and the only one outside New York City. Having a center in Rochester was a blessing for Scott, his wife Jen and their young family.
“Thank goodness we didn’t have to go there,” Jen says. “Thank goodness. Because I don’t know how our family would have done that if we had to do uproot our family and move. I’m so grateful we were local, so grateful.”
Scott was hospitalized for three months while he waited for a heart. Some patients wait longer. Right now, 30 patients are on the wait list. 13 of them are too sick to live at home. Dr. Chen oversees their care and says if there were more organ donors, they would do more heart transplants. Because of the shortage of heart donors, the surgical team at Strong does provide patients with heart pumps. But heart transplantation remains the gold standard. Scott considered the option but decided to wait for a heart.
Four months after the transplant, he’s showing no signs of organ rejection, and has slowly been weaned off some of the pills that were required after the transplant.
“I am incredibly grateful,” he says.” “We’re grateful he’s doing well,” says Dr. Chen. “That makes it all worthwhile.”