‘Heart-in-a-Box’ Can Be Lifesaver From Distant Donors

by akoloy

By Sarah Collins
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 8, 2021 (HealthDay News) — A couple of days after his 74th birthday, Don Stivers acquired his dream present — a brand new heart.

“I was born with a very lousy heart,” he defined. “Growing up, I decided I was going to overcome it and go to the Olympics and be a strong boy. And so everything I did was against doctors’ orders. They said don’t run, don’t do this, but I did anyway, and I would turn blue and pass out, and my mother would revive me.”

Stivers went on to be a excessive jumper at University of California, Los Angeles. He did not make it to the Olympics, however he stayed energetic via the years by mountain climbing, taking part in softball, operating, swimming and biking.

When he was round 58, the California native began having issues together with his power. On a very troublesome day, Stivers’ spouse drove him 4 hours to a hospital in Santa Barbara, the place he was recognized with ventricular fibrillation.


From that time ahead, he had implantable cardioverter defibrillators in his chest to assist his heartbeat keep on observe. He went via six in all.

“Then the last one, the wires had torn the tricuspid valve so badly that the heart was in such sad shape,” mentioned Stivers. “My cardiologist sent me to Cedars-Sinai, and because they couldn’t repair the heart, I ended up [going to the cardiology] team and they said, ‘In your condition, a transplant is the way to go.'”

Stivers, a land surveyor, wasn’t the standard candidate for a brand new coronary heart.

Dr. Dominic Emerson, affiliate surgical director of coronary heart transplant and mechanical circulatory assist within the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, mentioned, “We do more adult heart transplants at Cedars than any other center in the country and really the world. Because of that, we’re able to expand who we are able to transplant. And as a consequence, some places would not have listed Don because of his age. And then because of his size [he is 6 foot, 4 inches tall], it becomes even fewer the number of organs that he can take.”


Fortunately for Stivers, Cedar-Sinai’s coronary heart institute hoped to broaden its donor base with the assistance of a brand new expertise.

Staff readying for one more mission at Van Nuys airport, Calif.

TransMedics’ Organ Care System, nicknamed Heart-in-a-Box, permits organs to dwell exterior of our bodies for an extended time frame, that means hospitals can scout a bigger geographic radius for potential donors.

Traditionally, organs are placed on ice, the place a coronary heart, for instance, can solely keep viable for about 4 hours. With Heart-in-a-Box, at present below assessment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the organ is related to a transportable system that mimics how it will act throughout the human physique.

Cedars-Sinai had taken half in some early Heart-in-a-Box trials throughout the hospital’s regular geographic bounds. But when the surgeons obtained a name from Hawaii a couple of comparatively massive coronary heart that got here from a youthful, athletic individual, they raced to Van Nuys Airport.

At dinnertime on March 1, Stivers obtained a cellphone name.


“We found a match,” a hospital worker instructed him. “You should be down here by the time the donor heart makes it back.”

Stivers and his spouse arrived on the hospital round midnight, and the operation started a few hours later. The process was profitable, and Stivers turned the primary individual on the mainland to ever obtain a coronary heart from Hawaii.

“The surgeon, after he put it in, he sort of out of the corner of his mouth says, ‘Trust me, you have the perfect heart,'” Stivers recalled.

Stivers, who was estimated to have six to 12 months left to dwell together with his outdated coronary heart, is surpassing restoration expectations. He and his spouse, children, grandkids and nice grandchildren are grateful for the added time.

“I look forward to cliff jumping and swimming and biking, hiking and doing things,” mentioned Stivers. “I’m 74 years old, but I’m 24 in the head.”

Now he has the center to match.

More info

Visit Johns Hopkins Medicine for extra on heart transplants.


SOURCES: Don Stivers, coronary heart transplant recipient, Three Rivers, Calif.; Dominic Emerson, MD, affiliate surgical director, coronary heart transplant and mechanical circulatory assist, Smidt Heart Institute, and surgical co-director, cardiac surgical procedure intensive care unit, Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles

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