LaPlace man delighted with heart transplant

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 12, 2005


Managing Editor

LAPLACE — Ralph Williams of LaPlace has gained a new appreciation for life, along with his new heart.

Williams, 53, is recovering well from his heart transplant surgery, and looks forward to many more years with his wife, Cabina, and sons Raphael, 19, and Trevaughn, 9.

&#8220I don’t take much for granted anymore,” Williams said.

Cabina added, &#8220It gave him a new beginning.”

One result of the surgery was that it made Williams an outspoken advocate for heart transplants. As the 559th heart transplant recipient at Ochsner Hospital, he admitted, &#8220It was a scary thing. I had never experienced anything like this in my life.”

A retiree from Russel-Stanley Corp. in Reserve, Williams had been a hard worker all his life. A &#8220workaholic,” as his wife said.

His attendance was perfect, he rarely had a sick day in his life, and there was almost no history of heart trouble in his family. The rail-thin, 6-foot-8-inch Williams had no reason to suspect trouble.

Trouble came in 2004, when he began to suffer shortness of breath, which he first thought was bronchitis. This was accompanied by loss of appetite and a general weakness, all of which prompted his retirement.

Finally, on Nov. 16, 2004, Dr. Ben Telgala at River Parishes Hospital diagnosed a lfe-threatening heart condition. Following an EKG, Williams was immediately hospitalized, having gained 20 pounds of fluid, which was strangling his heart.

An angiogram at Kenner Regional Medical Center led to more hospitalization on April 29, where he had a kidney shutdown. At that time, he got a defibulator to regulate his heart function. He knew he needed a replacement heart or he would not live another year.

He attended the graduation of his son, Raphael, at East St. John High School. Shortly thereafter, on June 23 at 11 p.m., the call came. A matching heart had been found and was ready.

On June 24, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., the heart transplant surgery took place under the guidance of Dr. Hector Ventura.

For Cabrina, his wife of 21 years, the need for the surgery was never in doubt. &#8220He’s the ideal dad; the ideal husband,” she said of him.

He agreed. &#8220She deserves the best,” he said. &#8220I wouldn’t have done it without her and the boys.”

During his stay at Ochsner, Williams was a model patient. &#8220The nurses adored him. He was the best natured patient,” Cabrian said.

His chest is still sore and he is on a host of medications, from pain medicine to others to suppress his immune system to help his body accept the replacement heart. During the Hurricane Katrina period, with Ochsner shut down, he was forced to get those medications from Baton Rouge. Initially, they had evacuated to Natchez, Miss., and returned happy, having only sustained some minor roof damage.

Williams is delighted to be home with his family in his home. &#8220Now, life has more meaning.”

The New Foundation Baptist Church member added, &#8220All glory goes to God. I see people a whole lot differently. I don’t take much for granted anymore.”

Now, as a man with a future, he is planning family vacations and wants to see his children grow up and start their own families.

He also has a message to black families to embrace the idea of heart transplants, should the need arise. Williams also wants to visit Ochsner heart patients as well, to boost their spirits and help them through this emotionally-trying process.