April is National Donate Life Month. To celebrate, Donate Life NC, in collaboration with LifeShare Carolinas and Carolina Donor Services, is launching Growing Together NC (#growingtogether). This campaign will focus on all the ways we can continue to grow together as a community, while highlighting the extraordinary and life-changing effects of organ, eye and tissue donation.
This month, we’ll feature stories from North Carolinians whose lives have been touched by donation and transplant. We’ll meet donor family members, pediatric recipients, living donors, DMV examiners who “ask the question” every day, and healthcare professionals who want to inspire others to join our community. Each story reflects some of the trials of donation and transplant, as well as the highlights of recovery. We hope that everyone will be inspired by meeting people whose lives have been impacted by donation, and for anyone not yet registered, they will help illustrate the life-saving miracle that donation can be. Together, we can grow the donor registry.
Meet Dr. Gonzalo Wallis, a pediatric cardiologist that specializes in heart failure and transplant at Atrium Health in Charlotte.
Dr. Wallis received his medical degree in Venezuela, where he was born. In 2003, he moved to the U.S. with his wife to begin postgraduate training, first in Texas, before continuing to the University of Florida for pediatric cardiology and heart failure and transplant training. A pediatric cardiologist is a physician who provides medical treatment for those in heart failure and monitors their patients for signs and symptoms of progression of disease, including anything prompting the need for advanced therapies (such as mechanical support) or the need for a heart transplant. Cardiologists, like Dr. Wallis, help patients before their transplant surgery and after, monitoring them for signs of rejection throughout the patient's life and forming a lifelong relationship with the patient.
When asked what inspired him to choose pediatric cardiology, Dr. Wallis said, “Like everything in life, I was inspired to become a transplant cardiologist by a great mentor, who was unbelievably caring and smart, and showed me that we can do amazing things everyday, with extraordinary medical care and showed me not to give up when we were helping a child in need.”
Dr. Wallis moved to North Carolina 7 years ago. Since he’s made Charlotte his home, there are so many people in our community that want to share their “HEART-felt” thanks with him and all he has done to save and improve the lives of their children. In fact, he won the Donate Life NC Best Transplant Doctor Award in 2018. We asked him a few questions, to learn more about what motivates him in his work.
What is the best part about being a transplant cardiologist?
“The best part of doing what I do is to be able to be part of a miracle. We encounter patients and families at their worst moment, we build relationships and 99% of the time get them to be at their best. I truly believe that we witness miracles (of science…) everyday.”
Do you remember a particular patient? Can you share a little about them that may inspire someone to register as an organ, eye, and tissue donor?
“Of course, I remember them all! Kids have a way of getting to you and never letting go. Each is a different story, and each has their nuances. Amazing how no to patients are alike, even while going through the same unfortunate situation. Kids with congenital heart disease who have heart failure and need a transplant are resilient. And, if they are fighting, so do we--a heart is a scarce resource, that can be a great gift to someone. There’s no reason at all not to donate.”
What would you like people considering organ, eye, and tissue donation to know?
“Donation makes a huge difference, is a second chance for someone, is a tribute to the loved ones who have passed and live on healing someone after death.”
Special thanks to Dr. Wallis for all he does and for joining us as we celebrate Donate Life Month. He would like to remind everyone to “PLEASE DONATE!” and so would we. Be sure to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor to help people like Dr. Wallis’s patients receive a second-chance at life: http://registerme.org/growingtogethernc.