Heart Transplant Patient Celebrates 25 Years with Donor Heart

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 23, 2014

Heart transplant recipient Marie Larner (seated in front) and her family.

Contributor: Michael Givertz, MD, is Medical Director of the Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).

Eighty-one year-old Marie Larner, a patient at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says she has a lot to be thankful for.

Twenty-five years ago, the Swansea, MA resident became the recipient of a healthy new heart. Her own heart had enlarged to three times its size due to an infection, causing heart failure. She remembers being at her local hospital when she first heard there was a donor. “When they told me, I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “Everybody was so excited, including my doctors. It came so fast, which was fortunate for me, because I don’t think I had much longer to go.”

Marie is one of hundreds of patients who have received a second chance at life due to the efforts of BWH’s Heart Transplant Program, which is celebrating its 32nd year. In 1984, a BWH cardiac surgery team  Dustin, never link to anything other than one of the BWH online profiles; Dr. Cohn no longer in the directory because he passed away last year. performed New England’s first heart transplant. Today, the team-based program consists of cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, and nurse practitioners. The BWH Heart Transplant team has performed over 600 heart transplants, the most of any New England hospital. It remains one of the busiest cardiac transplantation and mechanical circulatory support programs in the region.

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National Donor Day – Consider the Gifts of Life

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 14, 2014

February 14 is National Donor Day, a time to think about the significance of organ, eye, tissue, marrow, platelet, and blood donation. Consider that in the U.S. more than 120,000 are waiting for an organ, 18 people die each day while waiting for an organ, one donor can help save up to eight lives, every two seconds someone needs donated blood, and a single car accident victim can require up to 100 pints of blood. Below are just a few of many stories of how selfless donations have helped to improve or save our patients’ lives.


  Kidney Transplant Patient Advocates for Kidney HealthIn the past two decades, BWH kidney transplant recipient Pauleter Stevens has become a devoted advocate for kidney health and disease prevention. A Bermuda native who works for the island’s Department of Health, Pauleter was first diagnosed with kidney failure in 1994, after a strep throat infection spread to her kidneys.



  Pancreas Transplant – Short Trip to a Big RewardJohn McDermott was sitting at his desk at Boston Children’s Hospital, where he has worked as a pharmacist for more than 40 years, when he received the call in the spring of 2007 to come to BWH for a new pancreas – and become BWH’s first pancreas transplant recipient.


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It’s a Wrap – Top Blog Posts in 2013

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 30, 2013

The blog team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) is wrapping up 2013 with a selection of our most popular posts.  We’d also love to hear from you – what blog topics would you like to see in 2014?

We wish you a safe, happy New Year and thank you for your support.


Face Transplant Recipient Focuses on Her Gifts

Carmen Tarleton, got a new start on life when she became the fifth BWH patient to receive a face transplant. A team of more than 30 physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists and others worked for 15 hours to complete the surgery. Carmen’s story demonstrates how the generosity of neighbors, friends, and strangers can restore hope and healing.


Morning Heart Attacks: Blame It on Your Body Clock

Have you ever wondered why most heart attacks occur in the morning?  According to recent research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Oregon Health & Science University, you can probably place some of the blame on your body clock which drives day/night variations in a protein known to be a risk factor for heart attacks and ischemic strokes.

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A New Heart – It’s Worth the Trip

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 16, 2013

Heart transplant recipient Kelly Belanger is thankful to be healthy and active again. (Photo by Blake Belanger)

People will travel great distances for a wide variety of things – to see a loved one, to get a deal on a car, even for a special meal. For Kelly Belanger of Sutton, Vermont, traveling 200 miles to connect with the right heart specialist was well worth the trip. Getting a new heart was even better.

Being active always has been important to Kelly, now 48 years old. Even as her health slowly degraded over the years, she still headed out for hikes, swims, and other outdoor adventures. But eventually her physical abilities no longer matched her desire.

After being diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia (a rapid heartbeat), Kelly was fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to regulate her heart’s rhythm. The device helped save her life several times, but her health continued to decline.

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A New Heart – Restoring One Life, Inspiring Another

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 7, 2013

Two healthy hearts – Brad and his son, Darby. (Photo by Alexandra Elizabeth Photography)

Before he had a life-saving heart transplant in 2007, Brad Biscornet was a warm-hearted, jovial, and active guy. He’s the same way today.

Despite being born with congenital heart disease, doctors were able to effectively manage Brad’s condition for many years. However, as his condition continued to decline and complications intensified during his early 30s, it became clear that he would need a heart transplant to save his life.

It did that and more.

Brad looked at his new gift as a way to not only save his life, but also to restore his life. It even inspired him to take on a role that wasn’t considered realistic before he received a new heart – fatherhood.

“Brad was so sick that we couldn’t look forward to doing something like that. We really didn’t know what kind of time Brad had left,” explains his wife, Mandra. “To be able to, a few years later, start a family has been just such a blessing for us.”

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Options for Patients with Advanced Heart Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 16, 2012

The multidisciplinary Advanced Heart Disease team meets weekly to thoroughly evaluate treatment options for every patient.

Many people with heart disease can successfully manage their condition with medications and lifestyle adjustments. But, for a relative few with very advanced heart disease, their only option is a heart transplant.

Because donor hearts are scarce, only about two thousand heart transplants are performed in the United States each year, leaving thousands of people across the nation on a wait list for a heart transplant. Additionally, many people with advanced heart disease are considered ineligible for heart transplant due to older age or other medical conditions.

Today, advanced heart disease specialists are using newer devices, like left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), as a temporary or long-term alternative to heart transplantation.  These devices are accessible at major medical centers and often provide a viable therapy option for patients ineligible for heart transplant.

For patients with biventricular heart failure (affecting both sides of the heart), one of the newest options – a total artificial heart – can support the patient until a donor heart can be found.  Earlier this year, a team of cardiovascular specialists at BWH, led by Dr. Gregory Couper, performed the first total artificial heart implant in New England.

“People who receive these devices earlier are stronger going into the procedure and have fewer complications after they receive the device,” explains Dr. Mandeep Mehra, Executive Director of the Center for Advanced Heart Disease at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). “We also are finding that their outcomes more closely match those seen among people who have undergone heart transplants.”

“There is a lot we can do, but it’s important that people with advanced heart disease receive specialized evaluation and care as soon as possible, when the most options are available for them,” says Dr. Michael Givertz, Medical Director of the Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program.

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