Fresno man waiting for heart watches Cheney's progress

FRESNO, Calif.

Zabalza needs a heart transplant. A machine, like the one Cheney relied on before his transplant is keeping him alive. "It keeps my heart pumping or I wouldn't be here today."

Jose has been hooked up to the Heart Two device for 14 months. He's suffering from congestive heart failure. His cardiologist Dr. Pervais Chaudhry says he is far from being alone. "Heart failure right now it's an epidemic in the country. We have 7 million with heart failure."

Jose is 54 years old. Cheney was 71. But Dr. Chaudry says despite his age, Cheney was a good candidate for a heart transplant. "He was healthy otherwise, the rest of his body organs, physically he was fit and he has gone through all of these procedures."

While Jose needs a transplant, he is not yet on the list to get a heart. "I'm not on the list yet because I need to get some dental work done, and I'm having financial difficulty in getting that."

His body, including his teeth must be infection free to qualify for the transplant and then he will have to wait for a donor. The vice president had to wait 20 months. Nationwide there are more than three thousand people waiting for donor heart stens of thousands more are waiting for other organs.

Marcella Corona of the Transplant Donor Network says the former Vice Presidents transplant calls attention to the need for organ donors. "The best thing we can do is provide education to the general public and say in a moment of tragedy perhaps for their family turn that tragedy around and help some other family."

Zabalza is hoping he will get a heart someday. But he's grateful for the 14 months of life this machine has already given him. "I was brought up that God only promises me today, he doesn't promise me tomorrow, he just gives me today. And I'm grateful for today."

Jose says he will be watching the former Vice Presidents progress. If all goes well Cheney could be out of the hospital in a few weeks. While Jose's medical treatment so far, and the transplant will be covered by Medi-Cal, the dental work he needs to get done isn't. He's not working, has little income and needs 15 hundred dollars to get his teeth fixed so he can get on the transplant list. The machine will give him a little more time to wait for a new heart.

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