New heart, new outlook: UBalt student shares journey from heart transplant to recovery
Dave McLaughlin came to college hoping to create a better life for himself.
What he didn’t know at the time, though, was how soon his life would change.
About one year after McLaughlin enrolled at The University of Baltimore, he received a call from his doctor that the heart he had been waiting for was finally available.
McLaughlin’s heart had been deteriorating so rapidly that his doctor told him he would need a heart transplant to live. In the meantime, he had to use a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a mechanical pump that supported his weakened heart.
The news spurred McLaughlin to change his lifestyle.
“When I found out that I was going to need a heart transplant, my perspective on life changed dramatically. I no longer sweat the little things. I only focused on the big things in life, such as family, school and happiness,” he said.
It was after learning about his heart failure that McLaughlin decided to quit his job as a bartender and return to college. He wanted to pursue his bachelor’s degree at UBalt where he could major in Digital Communication with a focus on Media Design and Production. He is on pace to graduate in spring 2023.
“I would love to work as a graphic designer, even a webmaster, for some company. It can be big, it can be small, but a company that I truly believe in,” he said. “I don't want to work for somebody just to get a paycheck. I want to have meaning behind it.”
McLaughlin received his new heart at University of Maryland Medical Center in August 2020.
“The last thing I remember hearing before I went under for surgery was that this was as perfect as a match that that doctor has ever seen.”
McLaughlin returned to UBalt in spring 2021. Just like when he was recovering physically, he took small steps academically to allow himself time to fully recover and found UBalt’s staff and faculty were very supportive.
“UBalt was amazing during my recovery,” he said. “They were able to work with me and make sure that I was able to come back and at the time that I needed to, at the pace that I needed to.”
In the time since his surgery, McLaughlin said he’s grown a lot as a person and continues to stay focused on what matters most.
“When you're basically faced with do you want to live or do you want to die, you really kind of put things in perspective,” he said. “The little things in life don’t matter. What makes you happy is what you need to do.”