‘Thankful for another day;’ Centerville woman first person to get a new heart from area hospital

CENTERVILLE — A woman in Centerville is alive thanks to a heart transplant after having cancer as a teenager, left her needing a new heart 20 years later.

George and Terri Cecere have been married since 1978.

“We went through the cancer thing together,” George said.

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Terri says the medication from her cancer led her to heart failure 20 years later.

“I was out of breath, I was waking up gasping for breath, I had congestive heart failure,” Terri said.

Doctors eventually told her that a heart transplant was needed. Terri did not have to wait long to get a new heart; she had a match within four days of being on the transplant list.

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“We were sort of surprised that it happened so quickly,” said George.

Terri was the first person to receive a heart transplant at The Christ Hospital.

“She was our first transplant patient. And she was fabulous,” Dr. Geetha Bhat, Medical Director; Cardiac Transplant Program, said.

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During her 40-day stay after her successful surgery, the staff at the hospital fell in love with her.

“She and her husband were sort of the ultimate patients,” Bhat said.

The staff had a special send-off on the day Terri was released to go home. The staff lined the hallways as she and her husband were leaving.

“Lots of times nurses and doctors are shedding tears, it’s because they lost the patient. But there were some tears being shed with of joy,” Dr. Rob Dowling - Surgical Director; Heart Transplantation said.

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It has been more than 100 days since her transplant and she is doing well.

“I’m feeling stronger. I’m not where I was, but I’m you know, a lot further along than when I was in the hospital,” Terri said

She has been a true inspiration to her husband and are grateful for the extra time they have together.

“Not really realizing how close we were to losing this wonderful special relationship we’ve had for all these years. I wake up every morning now, thankful for another day,” George said.

The Christ Hospital has done five more heart transplant surgeries since Terri’s.