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Modesto teacher shares message full of heart as she recovers from life-saving transplant


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    SACRAMENTO (KOVR) — Nearly four years in and out of a hospital, a Modesto teacher is now going home after a life-saving transplant. Now with a new heart, she’s got a message to share with others in a similar situation.

On Wednesday, doctors and medical staff at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento came together to celebrate a special patient as she leaves on the road to recovery.

Nicole Clement Crook was just 23 years old when she started to have heart issues. In 2020, her problems escalated as Clement Crook suffered four cardiac arrests in the span of a few months.

“I had swollen limbs and just felt really heavy all of a sudden, and I had shortness of breath, I could barely walk,” Clement Crook said. “Then, finally, I went to urgent care and urgent care, unfortunately, just said you have bronchitis. So then a week later was Christmas and that’s when I went to the ER because something was not right.”

She was transferred to Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento, and doctors found her heart was failing and enlarged.

“When she got strong enough, we put in an implantable heart pump for her from which she recovered, and about three years later, we put her on the transplant list,” said Dr. Robert Kincade, the director of heart transplantation and cardiovascular surgery at Sutter Medical Center.

Doctors gave her an Impella heart pump, which kept her alive while she got enough strength to be implanted with a portable heart pump called an LVAD, or left ventricular assist device.

This helped her go back to teaching her sixth-grade class at Roberston Elementary School in Modesto, get married, and get stronger and healthier to be put on the heart transplant list at 27 years old.

“I’ve just been living my life normally, living healthy, eating healthy, walking, then I finally got the call on September 22,” Clement Crook said.

Surrounded by her students, Clement Crook got the call that her new heart was ready for her.

“That was a really special moment for sure,” Clement Crook said.

Clement Crook is now one of over 250 patients who have received a transplant from Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento. Dr. Kincade said they were happy they caught her case when they did and encouraged others to get checked.

People can sometimes have heart problems that are undiagnosed, and if you’re younger and healthy, you’re not going to think it’s a heart problem,” Dr. Kincade said. “If you think something is not right, go to the doctor and get it checked out.”

Clement Crook said her journey surrounded by the doctors and staff at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento has inspired her to help others who may be going through something similar.

“I immediately felt the warmth, the compassion they had for me. I knew they had fought to keep me here and alive. You’d think being here is traumatizing to me, but it’s my favorite place to be just because of how wonderful everyone on the staff is,” Clement Crook said.

She now wants to share her story to educate all women about the symptoms of heart failure.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can never be too young or too old to get a checkup from someone, and you need to advocate for yourself and speak up for yourself,” Clement Crook said. “Now people can look to me in my community and I can give them the resources they need and help them through their journeys,” Clement Crook said.

It’s her teaching beyond classroom walls that has been an inspiration to her medical team.

“She’s our living example of why we do what we do. She’s actually in some ways teaching us, right? She’s teaching us to continue,” said Dr. Gurpreet Sodhi at Sutter Medical Center.

“For her to come through that with a great attitude and just move forward, it’s just been a pleasure to take care of her,” Dr. Kincade said.

Clement Crook is out of the hospital and back home in Modesto. She plans to go back to teaching her students at Roberston Elementary School in 2024.

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