Your generous support funds leading-edge care that helps make the holidays merry and bright for patients at Northwestern Medicine. Thanks to your gifts, we’re able to provide world-class health care, giving our patients more reasons to feel joyful during this special time of the year.
Your generosity enables us to provide leading-edge, compassionate care to patients like Lanette Lewis. Physicians and nurses marvel at Lanette’s positive outlook on life. At just 32 years old, she has faced cancer twice and received a heart transplant. Yet she doesn’t let her health challenges affect her attitude.
Lanette’s optimism is driven by her love for her family. “I have to be positive,” she says with a broad smile. “I have a daughter at home.”
From Joy to a Rare Diagnosis
A year and a half ago, Lanette was enjoying life after the birth of her daughter, Savannah — yet she was experiencing concerning symptoms. At first, she noticed that she felt especially winded going upstairs. Then, her condition grew much worse.
Lanette found herself sweating and struggling to breathe just sitting on the couch. When she got up in the morning, the 10 steps from her bed to the bathroom felt like a marathon. After making it to the bathtub, she would need to sit down on the edge, gasping for air.
Soon, Lanette was diagnosed with postpartum cardiomyopathy, an uncommon form of heart failure that occurs during or shortly after pregnancy. She tried cardiac rehabilitation, but when her condition did not improve, physicians sent Lanette to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for more comprehensive testing and treatment.
Tears, Smiles — and a Healthy Heart
Lanette’s mother, Rosemary, came along to her first appointment at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. They were both nervous about Lanette’s prognosis — so much so that Rosemary started crying at the hospital.
Lanette’s condition was serious, but her care team was ready to help. In fact, Lanette and Rosemary both felt an immediate sense of relief when they met Kambiz Ghafourian, MD, MPH, medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Heart Transplant Program.
“You know, just walking in — it was like a sense of calmness he brought to the room,” recalls Lanette. “He’s the best in his field. He’s very skilled in his area of expertise, and that made my mom feel a lot better.”
After more tests, Dr. Ghafourian confirmed Lanette’s diagnosis of postpartum cardiomyopathy. Due to the severity of her condition, he recommended a heart transplant. A heart became available shortly thereafter, and Lanette was scheduled for surgery on December 23, 2019.
At Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, psychological support from Gail M. Osterman, PhD, and the calming demeanor of her heart surgeon, Amit A. Pawale, MD, put Lanette at ease as she prepared for her surgery.
On the day of her surgery, Lanette recalls how happy she felt speaking with the nurses as they wheeled her into the operating room.
An Unexpected Holiday
Recovering from a heart transplant is not easy, but Lanette stayed positive with encouragement from the care team at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. And she felt immense gratitude, explaining, “Me receiving that heart transplant — that was my Christmas gift.”
To help make the season bright, staff decorated the hospital with festive lights and ornaments. Nurses shared holiday greetings to keep patients’ spirits high. Their kindness was especially meaningful to Lanette because she couldn’t be with Savannah for her first Christmas. But hospital staff made sure she was able to have a video call with her daughter while she opened her gifts.
“Even though the hospital staff wasn’t my original family, it was a new family for me to celebrate with,” says Lanette. “The nurses, the staff, the doctors — everybody was so nice and so helpful.”
I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Lanette’s can-do attitude kept her motivated throughout her recovery, and she was discharged from the hospital on January 2, 2020. Since then, she has continued healing at home while caring for little Savannah with help from friends and family.
As the one-year anniversary of her surgery approaches, Lanette is deeply grateful to have a healthy heart that allows her to keep up with her daughter. “I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with,” she says.
As Lanette makes plans for this year’s holiday celebration, a smile lights up her face. She is not only spending the holidays with her daughter for the first time, she’s also celebrating a year of wellness.
She has made incredible progress on the road to recovery and is grateful to Northwestern Medicine for providing her extraordinary care — and a little holiday magic — every step of the way.
Your Gifts Make a Difference
Your generosity helps make this kind of compassionate, comprehensive care possible at Northwestern Medicine, an academic health system in relentless pursuit of better medicine across Chicagoland. Your support helps us provide advanced care for patients like Lanette who are facing organ failure, so they can keep bringing joy to their families and communities during the holidays and all year long.