Connecticut hospital offers bold approach to heart transplants


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– Up to 4,000 people in the U.S. are on the waiting list for a heart transplant. A Connecticut hospital is on the leading edge of a comprehensive approach, accepting hearts that others may not.

A heart beats nearly 100,000 times daily, pumping life into the body.

Time is critical for the thousands on the list for a life saving heart. Patients can wait for more than six months for a heart transplant and some may not live long enough to get a new heart.

Related: Organ donors are needed. Should you be an organ donor?

“I was born with a congenital heart defect,” said 43-year-old Gary, a heart transplant recipient.

He finally got the heart he needed…

“The way I was feeling, I didn’t think I would make calendar year 2022,” said Gary.

…after four months at Yale New Haven Hospital.

“They needed a heart that was close by. They were targeting a male heart,” said Gary.

Some of the critical factors to successfully matching a donor heart for Gary.

“People don’t come to us to wait for a heart. They come to us to get a heart,” said Dr. Dan Jacoby, YNHH Director, Comprehensive Heart Failure Program.

Pushing the envelope has Yale New Haven Hospital Heart and Vascular Center at the leading edge of heart transplants.

Dr. Dan Jacoby heads up the Comprehensive Heart Failure Program.

“If we want to help people who are going to die because their heart is failing, we need to identify the ideal heart for that particular person,” said Jacoby.

That includes transplanting donor hearts other hospitals may not.

“It could be a situation where a donor organ might have a wall thickness of 1.3 or mild disease in a non-critical coronary artery that in normal circumstances you might not wish to accept for that particular recipient. But if it’s a choice of death in six days or having a heart transplant that in all likelihood is going to give them years of life, we think that the better choice is to take that chance and get that organ,” said Jacoby.

Knowing what the patient needs to survive is key.

“Every time I would see him in the hallway, he would always say, Gary, type A, 71 kilos, and he would kind of read off some of my specs, just to let me know that he was still thinking of me,” said Gary.

More hospitals are now practicing the bold protocol to save more lives.

“I think that it’s true that probably in some programs who don’t have the same philosophy, they would have not selected some of these hearts that we helped perfect that to be matched and properly together– that they would function well for that particular patient. And I think the success of the program demonstrates that we are able to do that,” said Giersson.

Dr. Arnar Giersson is Gary’s transplant surgeon.

“We’re very aggressive of making sure that we used all the available offers that were given to us in order to fit to the right person on the transplant list,” said Giersson.

This was Gary’s heart before surgery.

“It’s not really squeezing very well. You can actually see it’s barely moving around,” said Giersson.

The new heart —

“It’s functioning normally,” said Giersson.

“The heart is doing phenomenal at this point and I’ve really been doing well,” said Gary.

“We don’t have an option to be perfectionists with regard to the ideal prototype of the heart. Where we can strive to be perfectionist is in making sure that heart is ideal for that particular individual for that time and we don’t budge in that particular issue,” said Jacoby.

There were 49 heart transplants at Yale New Haven Hospital last year. And that number could be higher if more of us would consider becoming an organ donor.

A gift of life could come down to saving the life of a loved one or someone you know.

WEB EXTRA: Facebook Live interview with heart transplant recipient Dan Krauss

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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