William Boitnott, Heart Institute Patient

William Boitnott, 67, is a former Alaska State Trooper now living in Enumclaw, Wash., and working for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) where he manages personnel from Alaska to Arizona to Guam. William says he's still able to work, in large part, due to the heart operation he had at Virginia Mason. Not to mention the kidney transplant.

William's health problems started in 1991 when he was living in Alaska. He came down with pneumonia and his doctor put him in the hospital on high doses of penicillin. "Two days later, I blew up like a Beluga whale," says William, who credits a nurse for recognizing he was having an allergic reaction to the medication and unplugged his IV.

Everything in William's body was swollen, including his organs. The extent of the damage, particularly to William's kidneys, would not be known for some time. After several weeks, his joints and cartilage were still extremely painful. A nurse friend of William's wife, Alice, suggested Virginia Mason and so the couple flew to Seattle.

“I knew the care was better there than anywhere else, so that's where I wanted to be.”

William remembers that "three minutes after the doctor saw me, he said, 'I know what's wrong.'" The Virginia Mason physician prescribed prednisone and it worked. But two years later, when William had his annual physical in Alaska, his kidneys were found to be failing and eventually he would need regular dialysis.

A few years later, William transferred to Washington, D.C., where he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Since transplant patients need to be cancer free for five years, his hopes for a new kidney were dashed. William made another job transfer to Seattle, partly to be closer to Virginia Mason. "I knew the care was better there than anywhere else, so that's where I wanted to be."

After five years cancer free, William was again hopeful for a new kidney, when a spot was found on his lungs. Knowing he would be waiting an additional five years for a transplant, William moved back to Alaska. A few years later, William became ill during dialysis and was diagnosed with endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart chambers and valves. He also had aortic stenosis or a narrowing of the opening of the aortic valve. 

In November 2012, William and his wife made an emergency trip to Seattle and he was in the Virginia Mason operating room by nightfall. Surgeons replaced the faulty valve with a bovine one and William jokes that he's feeling fine except for an occasional craving for alfalfa. Four days after the operation, William left the hospital but stayed nearby for follow-up appointments. 

He returned to Alaska in reasonably good health. On Thanksgiving 2014, the call he had waited years for came in. William and Alice were in Seattle by mid-morning and by afternoon at Virginia Mason where William got a new kidney. 

Today, William says he is feeling "outstanding," and after so many years of ailments, he says, that's a pretty good way to feel.