Malvernite Lenore Greenberg said that whether she is exercising, cooking or walking around her neighborhood, she always seems to be on her feet. In 2018, however, she said, she started to feel sluggish.
“I just felt like I was slowing down,” said Greenberg, who is in her late 60s. “For some reason, I didn’t have the energy that I should have. I was taking naps during the day, which is something that I’ve never done, and I couldn’t even walk my dog to the corner of my block.”
As it turned out, Greenberg, who was an information-management consultant for almost 30 years, had coronary heart disease, and was in need of a new heart. She was placed on a heart transplant list last year at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute in Manhattan.
She recalled walking slowly into the hospital, fearful because she didn’t know how severe her problem was. “The doctors were telling me that I wasn’t having problems with my kidneys or my cognitive abilities yet,” Greenberg recounted. “I started thinking, ‘Oh my, they think I’m going to have these problems at some point.’ That’s when I started realizing how bad things could get.”
This was Greenberg’s second bout with a heart condition: In 2005, she had successful bypass surgery. Everything was fine until 13 years later. “I had no idea what I was dealing with,” she said, “because I didn’t know anyone who had a heart transplant. It was like science fiction to me.”
She was fortunate, though, to find a donor just a day after being placed on the transplant list. After her surgery in August 2019, which was successful, Greenberg took advantage of her proximity to NYU Langone Hospital–Long Island, in Mineola, for her follow-up care and cardiac rehabilitation.
Her surgeon, heart failure cardiologist Dr. Alex Reyentovich, noted that heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization for patients 65 and older. “After going through everything that she’s been through, she was pessimistic that we would find a solution,” Reyentovich said of Greenberg. “But I think she’s done remarkably well for someone with her degree of issues.”
The NYU Langone Transplant Institute was recently ranked the top transplant program in the country by the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. The institute’s heart transplant program, Reyentovich said, has brought in doctors from different parts of the country who help patients get transplants as quickly as possible.
“Helping to provide a new lease on life is such a reward for us,” Reyentovich said. “It’s wonderful that these patients are able to celebrate birthdays, graduations and that we’re able to help them get back to work and back to their lives after suffering for a really long period of time.”
Greenberg had her one-year follow-up tests in August, and she said her results were all positive. It took her a while to regain her energy and strength, she said, but she was thankful to have survived what she described as a whirlwind.
“It’s been a miraculous experience, because when you see where I am now, it’s 180 degrees from where I was back then,” she said. “It’s like being a different person, and I have to thank the family of the donor for giving me this new life.”
Greenberg, who was president of Temple Avodah, in Oceanside, from 2017 to 2019, said that the only reason she has spent more time at home these days is the pandemic. Now retired, she added that she has enjoyed getting back to some normalcy in her life, and spending more time with her wife, Roberta Treacy.
“I’ve learned to appreciate the little things in life,” Greenberg said, “and the everyday things that we all take for granted a little bit more.”