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Heart Transplant Program Celebrates 25 Years of Success

Dr. Frazier is shown surrounded by his patients who attended the 25th anniversary transplant celebration. Ten of the 23 recipients who achieved the 20th anniversary of their heart transplants attended a celebratory luncheon in their honor. Back row from left are John Poindexter, Rolando Mattar, Vic Schwartz, Dr. Frazier, Eddie Knipp, Cynthia Schabow and Richard Bolle. Front row from left are Victor Negron-Garcia, Charles Washington, Marilyn Riggle, and Penny Eastham.

The heart transplant program of the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital (THI at SLEH) was launched in 1982 with the advent of the anti-rejection drug Cyclosporine. In 2006, the heart transplant team led by Bud Frazier, MD, surpassed its 1,000th heart transplant, believed to be more than any other heart center in the world.

Ten transplant recipients share their stories:

Richard Bolle

Penny Eastham

Eddie Knipp

Rolando Mattar

Victor Negron-Garcia

John Poindexter

Marilyn Riggle

Cynthia Schabow

Vic Schwartz

Charles Washington

In February 2007, THI at SLEH honored 23 recipients who achieved the 20th anniversary of their heart transplants, representing more than 450 years of "extra life" gained through transplantation. The average heart transplant recipient survives 8 to 10 years after receiving a donor heart. Dr. Frazier, chief of cardiopulmonary transplantation and director of surgical research at Texas Heart Institute, is quick to acknowledge that the patient who is fortunate enough to receive a donor heart does so at the misfortune of someone else.

"The families of the donors are heroes. In the midst of their grief, they make a decision to help someone else," he said. "The patients we’re celebrating were truly brave individuals, seeking help when heart transplantation was still an emerging field of medicine. Their accomplishments in reaching this 20-year milestone are remarkable."

One constant in the 30 years since THI began its heart transplantation program is the shortage of donor organs. That is why Dr. Frazier has devoted more than 40 years to the research and development of mechanical heart assist devices. More than a dozen different heart assist devices are being studied in clinical trials here, and even more are under development in preclinical studies. While some of these pumps are for temporary use and deployed percutaneously, like in an angioplasty, others are surgically implanted and used as a bridge to heart transplantation. Still others support patients and allow their hearts to recover normal function. Over the last five years, several patients have achieved recovery and were able to have their pumps removed.

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Updated March 2012
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