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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Innovations in Organ and Tissue Transplantation

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 9, 2014

The face transplantation team worked for more than 20 hours to restore the face of Charla Nash.

In 2013, nearly 29,000 people received a second chance at life through the generosity of organ and tissue donors. Organ transplantation was made possible due to the pioneering work of Joseph E. Murray, MD, who performed the first successful human organ transplant in 1954 at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, which later became Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).

Dr. Murray received a Nobel Prize in 1990, in recognition of his contributions to the field of organ transplantation, including the development of immunosuppressive therapy to reduce organ rejection. Since that time, transplant specialists at BWH have achieved more firsts in organ transplantation in New England, including multiple organ transplants on the same day from an individual donor and multiple transplants on the same day from multiple donors.

Recently, BWH physicians achieved another transplant milestone by completing composite tissue allograft transplantation. This procedure allows surgeons to take something as complex as a face or arm and transplant it. In 2009, surgeons at BWH performed the first full face transplant in the U.S.

In this video, Michael J. Zinner, MD, Chairman, Department of Surgery, and Bohdan Pomahac, MD, Director, Center for Facial Restoration and Director, Burn Center, discuss transplant innovations at BWH over the past 60 years and the future of organ and tissue transplantation.

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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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Face Transplant Recipient Focuses on Her Gifts

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 2, 2013

Face transplant recipient Carmen Blandin Tarleton embraces her donor's daughter, Marinda Righter.

Recent events have made us grimly aware of the intense suffering that just a few people can cause. But in the wake of such tragedies, we also have seen the other side – the eagerness of neighbors, friends, and strangers to help as best they can.

Carmen Blandin Tarleton, a 44-year-old registered nurse and mother of two from Thetford, Vermont, has experienced both extremes first hand, but her heart is now focused on what she has been given, not what has been taken away.

On June 10, 2007, Carmen’s estranged husband doused her with industrial-strength lye and beat her. Over 80 percent of Carmen’s body was severely burned. Despite the subsequent efforts of 55 surgeries over five years, including 38 during a three-month period immediately after the attack, Carmen remained in pain, severely disfigured, and legally blind. She also suffered from uncontrolled drooling and an inability to rotate her neck.

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Arm Transplant Candidate Is Eager to Embrace Life

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 13, 2012

Arm Transplant Katy Hayes

Arm transplant candidate Katy Hayes, 44, looks forward to having new arms to hold her husband and children.

Katy Hayes of Kingwood, TX, wants to be a pioneer. Wearing a broad smile, she talks about her wish to become the first person in the country to receive an above-the-elbow double arm transplant and her eagerness to grasp the opportunities that such an innovative surgery would bring.

Katy, 44, became a quadruple amputee in 2010. After giving birth to her third child, she developed a life-threatening streptococcal A infection that required surgeons to amputate her arms above the elbows and her legs above the knees.

Katy has since recovered well and maintained an optimistic attitude, but feels that she won’t be content until she has natural limbs once again. She gamely tried using artificial prosthetics, but they left her uncomfortable and unsatisfied. Not only did they prove to be unwieldy when trying to perform basic hygiene tasks and cause her body to overheat under the Texas sun, but they also failed to provide something particularly important for a woman who practiced massage therapy for more than 17 years – a sense of touch.

That opportunity, however, is now within reach. After completing a thorough medical and psychological evaluation process over the course of several months at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Katy was approved this week as a candidate for a bilateral (double) arm transplant. The next key step, which has already begun, is to work with the New England Organ Bank (NEOB) to identify a suitable donor.

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The Next Transplant Challenge: Making Organs from Scratch

Posted by Blog Administrator May 22, 2012

Ali Khademhosseini

Ali Khademhosseini is regenerating human tissues outside the body that one day will be used for organ transplantation.

With every modern medical miracle, precious lives are saved – and new challenges are born. Take organ transplantation, for instance. In 2011, 21,000 U.S. patients received organ transplants – and yet another 110,000 remained on the organ donation waiting list, according to Donate Life America.

That’s a problem that Ali Khademhosseini, a researcher in Brigham and Women’s Center for Regenerative Therapeutics, is starting to tackle. His lab is buzzing with scientists all focused on one goal – regenerating human tissues outside the body that one day will be used for organ transplantation and drug discovery.

By taking the principles of engineering and materials sciences and combining them with biology, they are developing, as Khademhosseini describes it, “new and radical ways to treat patients and push medicine forward.”

Of course, like most medical strides, it will take years of research before Khademhosseini’s efforts can be put toward clinical treatment. “There are still a great deal of challenges in trying to make regenerative therapeutics readily available clinically. It has happened to some degree for some of the simpler tissues,” notes Khademhosseini. “But it is far away from reaching its full potential.”

But Khademhosseini is patient. He’s also thankful to be at BWH where, as he notes, “researchers like me can work closely with clinicians. … It is just an incredible experience to be able to do research in very close proximity with people who are doing the surgery, or who are doing different kinds of imaging, or treating patients on a daily basis.”

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Transplants: Using Age to Improve Success

Posted by Blog Administrator April 25, 2012


Toshiko Linton

Kidney transplant recipient Toshiko Linton (right), with Surgical Director Stefan Tullius (left)

Dr. Stefan Tullius, Chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), believes that recent BWH research could provide the impetus for a major change in how organ donors and recipients are matched, and that being older, at least for transplant recipients, can indeed be better.

A team of researchers from BWH Transplant Surgery and Renal Medicine analyzed data from more than 100,000 patients who received kidney transplants between 1995 and 2008 to find that matching donor and recipient age significantly improves outcomes. Tullius, who led the study, is optimistic that this finding could ultimately lead to an improved donor matching process.

“Right now, 70-year-old patients are competing with 20-year-old patients for the same organs,” Tullius said. “Our research supports a proposal to change the way that we allocate donor organs. We’ve found that when the donor and recipient are more closely matched in age, we are using each organ in the most efficient and best way.”

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