Jang Jaswal woke one night short of breath and sensing a slight pressure in his chest. He couldn’t figure out what was happening and grew increasingly frustrated.

“I knew there was something wrong with me,” said Jaswal, who was only 33 at the time.

His wife, Sushila, persuaded him to go to the hospital, but medical tests were inconclusive and he was released. Jaswal thought maybe he had pulled a muscle. A follow-up appointment with a cardiologist indicated he had suffered a heart attack.

Back at the hospital, an angiogram detected two blocked arteries, and he underwent balloon angioplasty to improve his blood flow.

It was the start of many heart troubles that Jaswal would endure during more than two decades.

Originally from India, Jaswal immigrated to the United States in his late 20s. He developed a taste for salty, fatty foods at fried chicken and hamburger restaurants.

“We didn’t get all that back home,” he said, adding, “Health issues were the last thing on my mind.”

Under stress while searching for a job in his field of biology and genetics, he smoked a pack a day. In addition, he had a family history of heart disease, which contributed to his parents’ deaths.

During the 1990s, Jaswal had additional blocked arteries and multiple stents implanted. In 2000, he suffered two strokes – one in a parking lot and another three months later while sitting at a computer. The episodes left him with vision and balance problems and difficulty with spatial orientation.

Then came more artery blockages, more stents and triple bypass surgery.

Meanwhile, dye from the angiograms interfered with Jaswal’s kidney function.

By 2010, he began dialysis. And his heart further weakened.

“I could feel life slipping out of me,” he said.

Jaswal needed a new heart and kidney. One medical center said he wasn’t strong enough to be a transplant candidate. Another hospital and doctor in the San Francisco area equipped him with an implanted left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, to help his heart continue pumping.

During the next three months, the LVAD helped him regain some strength. He was placed on a waiting list for a heart-kidney transplant in September 2013. That November, at age 57, Jaswal got his transplant.

“Ever since, I’ve been doing great. Today is better than yesterday,” he said happily.

Jaswal remains in contact with the deceased donor’s family. He describes it as “a very special relationship.”

Now 60 and retired, Jaswal enjoys time with his wife and his two grown children, Veneeta and Ankur. He has the stamina to go deep-sea fishing and to travel in India. He also has written about his health experiences.

“Someone gave me a chance at life,” he said. “Life is good.”

Today, Jaswal urges others to exercise regularly; limit intake of salt, sugar and fats; and listen to their doctor’s advice. He also encourages organ donation.

He volunteers with the American Heart Association in San Jose and with the “Rise Above Heart Failure” program. He has lobbied for anti-smoking initiatives, spoken at heart association events and participated in a heart failure support group.

“I am the beneficiary of the research funded by American Heart Association, as the doctors used most innovative techniques on me during my struggle with heart issues,” he said.