Heart Surgeons Perform 2 Transplants in 1 Day at URMC

April 16, 2013

Two people are recovering after a pair of heart transplants performed recently at the University of Rochester Medical Center. This was the first time the Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation surgeons performed two heart transplants in one day.

A Brighton woman and Syracuse man received gifts of life during six-hour transplant surgeries Feb. 28. 

“It was quite a feat in terms of coordination. There are many tests required of the donor organs and the recipients, then travel to get the organ and of course, there has to be precise timing,” said heart surgeon H. Todd Massey, M.D., surgical director of the heart transplant program.  George Alfieris, M.D., Francisco Gensini, M.D., Michael Swartz, P.A., and Fran Younger, R.N., assisted during the pair of surgeries.

Leway Chen, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of the program, said: “It was gratifying to see the systems we have in place challenged and that we were successful. But more importantly, through the generosity of donors, we provided new hearts to people who have bright futures ahead.”

Elizabeth Coughlin, 54, waited for months before being hospitalized with heart failure in mid-January.

“It was an incredible experience,” said Coughlin, a former teacher at St. Rita’s School in Webster. “The whole team was so kind and encouraging that it was a little difficult to leave them and go home.”

Coughlin started having heart trouble more than 20 years ago. At the time, she was teaching elementary school and found her heart would race or pound when she raised her voice or got upset or frustrated in the classroom. She’d notice it happening more often and sought medical attention.

Doctors said it was cardiomyopathy, which causes heart muscle to thicken or become rigid, was the diagnosis. As the disease progresses, the heart weakens and cannot pump enough blood through the body or maintain normal rhythms.

Coughlin’s primary care physician Holly Garber M.D, of Pittsford Internal Medicine, and cardiologist Eduardo A. Arazoza, M.D., of Rochester Cardio Pulmonary Group, managed her care pharmacologically for many years. When her heart began to fail, they recommended she see Chen for specialized care.

“It was a real team effort to care for her from diagnosis to transplantation,” Chen said. “She was a model patient who took all of our instructions and recommendations to heart.”   Coughlin returned home March 18. URMC offers the only heart transplant program in upstate New York and the region’s only comprehensive heart failure and transplant service.

The Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation was established in 2001 and the large team of specialists provides a full spectrum of heart failure care, including heart pumps, total artificial hearts and transplantation. It is a national leader in research efforts to further the treatment of heart failure and return patients that suffer from heart failure to healthy and productive lives. Currently there are 43 patients awaiting heart transplants at URMC, and some have been waiting for months. 

The number of people who need organ transplants far exceeds the number donated each year, according to the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, the organ procurement organization affiliated with the University of Rochester Medical Center and SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.  April is Donate Life Month, dedicated to raising awareness of organ donation. To register as a life-saving organ donor, go to www.donorrecovery.org.

URMC also has a unique and life-saving service in the Cardiac Critical Care Transport Team, composed of cardiac critical care nurses, respiratory therapists, perfusionists and physicians. The team uses a vehicle equipped with cutting-edge technology to assist patients being rushed from outlying areas to the URMC for the region’s most comprehensive cardiac care.

For Media Inquiries:
Leslie White
(585) 273-1119
Email Leslie White