Manalapan father recovers from heart transplant at 49

Nandan Savalia counts the days until August.

That’s when he’ll be a year away from a heart transplant and likely get the green light to enjoy his gift of life with fewer restrictions.

“I feel a lot better, my life right now is a lot better,” the married father of two told New Jersey 101.5.

Despite leading an active lifestyle and watching his diet, Savalia, from Manalapan, suffered a heart attack during a cardio boot camp class in June 2018 at the age of 45 – he only knew something wasn’t okay because he couldn’t catch his breath after class, so he decided to go to the emergency room of a local hospital.

The heart attack caused severe damage to his heart, which kicked off a three-year journey that would thankfully end with a life-saving transplant in August 2021 at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.

“He had an incredible recovery,” said Dr. Deepa Iyer, of the Robert Wood Hospital and Rutgers Johnson Medical School. “He was only able to walk three days after the transplant and was sent home on August 26, just eight days after his transplant. He is following his protocol for post-transplant testing and visits, is doing very well and continues to inspire everyone with their dedication and discipline.”

A week before the vital transplant, Savalia lost her father in the same hospital. Special arrangements were made at the hospital for Savalia to be able to safely visit her father, who had undergone cancer treatment and had suffered a brain haemorrhage after a serious fall.

“Losing my father was very difficult, but I feel like he went up there (to heaven) for me to make sure there was a heart for me,” he said.

Savalia, now 49, has yet to return to the gym, but he is far from stationary. It records about 10,000 steps per day.

Last Sunday, Savalia was able to celebrate his first Father’s Day with a new heart. He hopes that after the first anniversary of the procedure, he will be allowed to travel outside the country with his family, as he did before, and increase his physical activity.

“I lost three years of my life, so it’s good to have a normal life back,” he said. “My advice to other patients is to never give up. Always stay active to boost your body and be ready for when the time comes.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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