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Dead Hearts Brought Back to Life…for Many More Transplants!

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ORLANDO, Fla. (WGEM)— 300,000 Americans die each year from congestive heart failure.

300,000 will have access to a donor heart in the U.S., which means that only one percent of the people that need a heart get it in time.

But now a new innovative organ care system is making more hearts available to those who need them.

For more than two years, George Martin battled the side effects from a severe case of swine flu.

“I ended up to the point where I couldn’t even put on flip flops, my feet were so swollen,” recalled George Martin.

The flu destroyed his heart muscles, and he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

“It attacked my heart; it enlarged my heart, it wiped out the left side of my heart basically,” George shared.

He was placed on the transplant list for a new heart and was called twice for available donor hearts, only to find out later they were not viable.

“When they're on the waitlist, they're living life in limbo,” illustrated Scott Silvestry, MD, surgical director of transplant programs at AdventHealth Transplant Institute.

Most transplants are from donors who are brain dead since doctors are still able to assess the working heart. But now, dead hearts can be brought back to life with the help of TransMedics organ care system.

“The heart is actually put on a big pump where it gets oxygenated blood, and we monitor the metabolism of the heart,” Dr. Silvestry described.

“We’re able to reanimate the heart, and we’re able to assess the function of the heart, and we’re able to transport the heart and bring it back here,” Don Botta, MD, heart transplant surgeon at AdventHealth.

This machine keeps a heart viable for six to eight hours after it initially stops beating compared to four to six hours for standard heart transplants.

“It has the potential to save three to four thousand additional patients a year where they need a heart transplant to live,” explained Dr. Silvestry.

George was one of the first two patients to have this done at his hospital— and he is very grateful!

“It just opens up a world of possibilities,” George shared.

George is a part of the TransMedics’ clinical trial for the organ care system.

The trial is currently in progress in 12 transplant centers across the country, and so far in its year and a half span, 40 hearts have been utilized.

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Don Dwyer

Don Dwyer is a Morning Anchor/Reporter at WGEM.

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