Students at The University of Texas at Austin call him a walking miracle. Gene Brooks, PhD, a lecturer in the College of Education, lived with heart failure for 15 years before receiving a heart transplant in 2013.
Dr. Brooks was a fitness buff and never smoked. After being diagnosed with heart failure, he controlled his symptoms with medication for more than a decade.
In 2011, his symptoms changed. He began retaining fluid and was constantly exhausted. Both signs that his heart was no longer responding to the medication.
Dr. Brooks consulted with physicians who explained a ventricular assisted device, VAD, would be his best option until a heart transplant was possible. Born with retinitis pigmentosis, he lost his vision completely and is blind. This created a problem since a VAD is designed for people with sight.
Enter the superintendent and lead braille specialist from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired who worked with the Ascension Seton Heart Specialty Care and Transplant Center to develop a braille prototype for the VAD controller and an instruction manual in braille.
The collaboration made it possible for Dr. Brooks to receive the device in early 2012. And to operate and live with the VAD for more than a year.
Dr. Brooks received his heart transplant in 2013 and returned to work only three months later. He tells all of his students about his heart transplant so they will not expose him to active infections.
His quality of life has increased 100 fold. Full of energy and able to work out again, Dr. Brooks looks forward to traveling with his wife to Anchorage, Alaska or Europe.
He continues to teach counseling theory, intro to rehab counseling and individual and group counseling in the Vocational Counseling Rehabilitation program at The University of Texas at Austin.