Retired Elmira school bus driver Wayne Hart recently returned to his Horseheads home after receiving a life-saving heart transplant at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
“Mr. Hart suffered with end-stage heart failure for close to a year and we followed him very closely and used a variety of continuous intravenous medications to manage his heart function before he became eligible to join the heart transplant waiting list,” said his transplant cardiologist Eugene Storozynsky, M.D., Ph.D.
Transplant surgeon H. Todd Massey, M.D., performed the five-hour surgery June 19, just 11 days after joining the list. URMC’s Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation is the only comprehensive heart failure and transplant service in upstate New York.
“It’s been quite a ride – mind boggling really,” said Hart, 60, who has suffered from heart disease since 2005. “I can’t believe I was put on the list, got a heart and then get to go home in a month’s time. I’m so grateful for everything.”
The aptly named Hart was incredibly lucky, his healthcare team said. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, approximately 3,000 people in the United States are on the waiting list for a heart transplant on any given day. About 2,000 donor hearts are available each year. Wait times vary from days to several months and depend on a recipient’s blood type and condition.
“I’m very lucky that someone out there was willing to be an organ donor,” Hart said.
Hart came down with what he thought was pneumonia in 2005 and went to his doctor when he couldn’t shake the symptoms. It wasn’t pneumonia, but rather heart failure. The left side of his heart was weak and doctors implanted a defibrillator in his chest to regulate the heart function. That intervention worked for a few years before the right side of his heart also began to fail a year ago.
“I was in and out of the hospital so often. I really thought I was going to die,” said Hart, who recently celebrated his 39th wedding anniversary with wife, Joanne. They have three grown children, Michael, Aniesa and Theresa, and 18 grandchildren. A son, Christopher, died in 2008.
“We’ve had some really scary times,” his wife said. She convinced him to consider a second opinion at URMC.
While Hart was hospitalized waiting for the heart, he met with other heart transplant survivors who shared tips for life after the surgery. “It was good to see them living life fully,” he said.
In New York, there are 10,000 people waiting for organs, more than 112,000 in the country. Among them, 3,200 need new hearts, including 51 people who are waiting for a transplant at URMC. However there are far fewer transplants performed each year because a shortage of donated organs. Transplantation would not be possible without the generousity of donors and their families. To register as an organ donor, go to the FInger Lakes Donor Recovery Network website: www.donorrecovery.org.
URMC is a leader in cardiac care, providing comprehensive management of all cardiac problems. The Program in Heart Failure and Transplantation holds the advanced certification in heart failure from the Joint Commission, the nation’s leading body for setting health care standards and accreditation.