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James T. Willerson, MD
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Heart to Heart from Dr. James T. Willerson

 
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March 30, 2011

Dear Friend of the Texas Heart Institute,

As of this writing, it’s been almost three full weeks since 55-year-old Craig Lewis had his disease-ravaged heart removed and replaced with a continuous-flow (pulseless) total artificial heart here at the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital.

Mr. Lewis continues to do well, sitting up in a chair several hours a day, and is alert and communicating with his family and doctors.

The artificial heart is essentially a pair of HeartMate II Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs) developed and engineered to do the work of both sides of the heart. Years of effort on the part of Drs. Bud Frazier, Billy Cohn and their teams have made this possible, though much more remains to be done.

And we’ve certainly not forgotten that this path was blazed more than four decades ago when THI’s founder, Dr. Denton A. Cooley, implanted the world’s very first total artificial heart.

From coast to coast, and as far away as the U.K. and India, this latest achievement has gotten public attention. You can see highlights of our press conference and some of the media coverage here.

 Denton A. Cooley
Denton A. Cooley:
Hoops and Heart Health

Speaking of attention, the spotlight shines on the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament in Houston this week, and on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., the host network, CBS (channel 11 in Houston), will air a half-hour program that features prominently Dr. Cooley as one of its “Buick Human Highlight Reels.” The program focuses on former college athletes who went on to make significant contributions to society and how their athletic careers prepared them for the broader world. Dr. Cooley was on the 1939 Southwest Conference Champion University of Texas Longhorn basketball team and, of course, went on to many off-the-court glories that have set the stage for important medical advancements like the one described above.

We continue to be very proud of him and hope you will tune in on Saturday. A preview of the program can be viewed here.

Finally, and before we leave the subject of basketball, there has been a wave of media attention recently to the sudden cardiac deaths of young high school athletes. They are all very tragic, and no one is addressing the problem in quite the same way as THI’s Center for Coronary Artery Anomalies and its Kinder Outreach Program which is conducting a study of the heart abnormalities that cause such deaths in young people. This study includes the screening of 10,000 middle-school children in the Houston area with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). This form of imaging detects the four major causes of sudden death in young people with an image time of approximately 15 minutes for each child. We’ve just completed several weeks of screenings at Houston’s Welch Middle School and are now beginning at Revere Middle School. During spring break, we also had a number of students from the Fort Bend Independent School District participate. You can learn more about this work and see a video featuring basketball great Hakeem Olajuwon at our “Hoops and Heart Health” web page.

Also, I hope you will read our op-ed article on the subject that ran under the headline “Research May Save Lives of Young Athletes,” in the Sunday, March 19 Houston Chronicle here.

Respectfully,

James T. Willerson signature


 

 
  James T. Willerson, MD
  President and Medical Director


Contact Dr. Willerson

Read previous issues of Heart to Heart in the archives.

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