Doctor, heart transplant patient share love of music at SoCal hospital

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Musician Sean Tiwanak has been fighting heart failure for 15 years. A virus attacked his heart causing it to slowly lose its pumping power. A few weeks ago, his doctors told him only a heart transplant could save his life.

"I never wanted a heart transplant, for 15 years. I never wanted to give up my heart. I liked the way I felt inside. I wanted to keep my organ but there came a point this year when I had to face facts, I'm not gonna last without it," Tiwanak said.

After only a week on the waiting list, there was incredible news: a donor heart had been found.

Tiwanak was rolled into surgery and the medical team went to work.

Doctors removed his diseased heart, and the donor heart, taken from a bag of ice, was implanted into his chest.

"The surgery went extremely well. The donor heart functioned beautifully as soon as it got blood back into it. He's basically on a trajectory to go home in a very short time," said Dr. Fardad Esmailian, surgical director with SMIDT Heart Institute.

Tiwanak says the difference is amazing.

"This heart feels so strong. I am so grateful to the donor and his family and I really hope that I can live a life that reflects the gift they have not only given me," Tiwanak said.

Shortly after he was admitted, a cardiologist heard about the ukelele playing patient and went to meet him.

"I kind of circled back at the end of our rounds and I was talking to one of the nurses, and I bought up to her that I used to sing, and she said you should sing with him," said Dr. Lily Stern.

Turns out Dr. Stern used to sing professionally -- and the two were soon harmonizing.

"I went into medicine to really help people, not just to save lives but to also save quality of life, and I think my goal would be to get Sean back to his former quality of life where he could really be fully performing and sharing his music and light with the world," said Dr. Stern.

"I can tell what I have experienced is just miraculous to me and I'm very grateful," Tiwanak said.

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