Tikki Tsang’12 has been given a second chance, and his new heart is filled with gratitude. Born with a congenital heart defect, Tsang had bypass surgery when he was one year old. He recovered well and lived 32 years without any issues until last February, when his heart went into rapid failure.
Tsang was born with a condition called transposition of the great arteries, a serious and rare heart problem in which the two main arteries that leave the heart are reversed or transposed. This results in a shortage of oxygen-rich blood in the entire body. Without treatment, serious complications or death can occur.
“I was born with it, and because of the technology at the time, they didn’t have a permanent fix, so they did a bypass on my heart when I was one,” Tsang explained. “I had to go through annual checkups to make sure that my heart was doing well and healthy, and it had been that way for years, but this year was different.”
In February, Tsang started to experience abdominal pain and bloating. He went to urgent care, which recommended that he contact his cardiologist. His cardiologist at Jefferson Hospital did a series of tests, and on March 22, he was told that his heart was in rapid failure and needed a transplant. His doctors were concerned that his condition was also affecting Tsang’s liver and that he would need a double organ transplant.
After consulting with doctors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, it was determined that the best place to treat Tsang was New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
“I still remember on March 23 around 5:00 p.m. when all of the testing was done, and the doctor wasn’t sugarcoating it. She told me my heart was failing, my liver may be failing, and I needed a transplant. It hit me like a whirlwind,” he explained.
His parents and sister, living in Hong Kong at the time, came to New York to be by their son’s bedside.
Over the next four weeks, it was determined that Tsang’s liver issues were related to the large number of diuretics used to treat his heart condition, and he didn’t need a liver transplant. While this was obviously good news, the ordeal was taking a tremendous toll on Tsang.
“The testing was no fun. I was stuck in an MRI for two hours, and it took an emotional toll on me,” he said.
On April 28, Tsang was added to the heart transplant donor list, and on May 17, he received a call that a donor heart was available. Tsang is still thanking God and his lucky stars for this phone call which came much earlier than he expected.
“Ever since I was put on the list, it put a little ease of mind in my head, even though I wasn’t sure how long the wait would be. I kept a positive attitude and started walking 10,000 steps a day to prepare for the new heart. All of this paid off because I really didn’t show any kind of swelling after the operation,” Tsang said.
On May 17, he underwent surgery, which continued until the next day. On May 18, Tsang’s new heart started beating in his chest. He was discharged on June 1 and overheard his doctors say that his progress was “nothing short of a miracle.”
“I was tied with the quickest person to get discharged from a heart transplant, and if my white blood cell count didn’t go up, I would have been the quickest,” he noted. “I was in and out of the hospital in 15 days after the operation.”
Tsang is forever grateful to his donor’s family and plans to contact them in the future.
“If I didn’t check up on it, I probably wouldn’t have survived. According to my doctors, my body was compensating for months, so that was why there weren’t any signs before the abdominal bloating,” Tsang explained. “If I had stalled any longer, I would not be here at this time.”
Tsang, an international business major originally from Hong Kong, moved to Philadelphia when he was 11 years old. He is currently staying in New York City because of the numerous follow-up appointments with his medical team. He undergoes a biopsy each week until the end of August.
His employer, Envestnet, where he works as a platform consultant, is holding his position until he fully recovers. He credits longtime friend, Joe McGinley, with becoming his mentor and introducing him to the financial world.
“Now, having a second chance at life, I really want to dedicate myself to doing well and helping others like Joe did,” said Tsang.
Tsang’s friends have established a Go Fund Me account to help with his medical bills. To donate, visit Tikki’s Heart to Heart Fund.