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New heart brings new life

By Jennifer Wall

Special to The Farmville Herald

By age 30, Kevin Hagaman had been diagnosed with leukemia, endured chemotherapy and experienced heart failure — all of which put him on the brink of death.

His trials and illnesses would eventually lead him back to health care, but on the other side of the operating table — this time, as a surgical technologist at Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville.

“I never realized how sick I really was until I received a new heart,” Hagaman said, referring to his heart transplant on Aug. 17, 2008.

“At age 14, I was diagnosed with leukemia. After two years of chemotherapy, I overcame the leukemia, but at a cost. The life-saving medicines that had saved my life now threatened my life because they damaged my heart.”

Symptoms of a weakened heart began when Hagaman was 25.

It only took him two months to get a new heart after being placed on the transplant list, he said.

“I will never forget waking from the heart transplant surgery with almost instant energy,” said Hagaman.

It was during his recovery that his interest in medicine was fueled.

“After my life-saving transplant, I had the energy to have a career, but I wanted to do something professionally that, when I woke up every day, I looked forward to doing. Twice in my life I had been given new opportunities to live all due to the medical care I received; therefore, working in the medical field where I could help give others a better shot at life seemed natural.”

Hagaman took prerequisite classes while attending Southside Virginia Community College in Keysville. When he learned about the accelerated medical programs offered at East Coast Polytechnic Institute (ECPI) he enrolled at the Richmond-Moorefield campus.

His interest and determination led him to enter the surgical technology program. In 2013, Hagaman graduated from the program and now is a surgical technologist.

“I have gone from being a professional patient to being a professional healthcare worker and it feels great,” he said. “Each day, as I assist in the operating room, I am grateful that I am standing beside the table not on it. I am also grateful for the opportunity to return a bit of the compassion and medical care I once received.”

Hagaman said that due to the thorough education he received at ECPI, he feels fully prepared for any surgical challenges he may experience. 

On February 13, he received notification from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Assisting that he had been named a certified surgical technologist, attesting to his advanced skills set and abilities.

“We are so pleased to have Kevin working in our operating room here at Centra Southside,” said Dr. Kirsten Huber, chief of surgery at the hospital.

“He brings a unique perspective and reminds us every day about how our work touches individuals and what a lasting impression we can make. And we all want the operating room experience to be as positive and stress free for patients and families as it can be.”