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‘Heart box’ can be the survival of remote donors

‘Heart box’ can be the survival of remote donors

By Sarah Collins
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, APRIL 8, 2021 (HealthDay News) – A few days after turning 74, Don Stivers received a dream gift. heart.

“I was born with a very evil heart,” he explained. “When I grew up, I passed and went to the Olympics and decided I was going to be a strong boy. So everything I did was against the doctors’ orders. They said don’t run, don’t do this, but I did it anyway, and I would turn blue and wear out. I was, and my mother would resurrect me. “

Stivers was a senior jumper at the University of California, Los Angeles. He didn’t make it to the Olympics, but he was active over the years hiking, playing softball, running, swimming and biking.

At the age of 58, the Californian began to have problems with his energy. On a particularly difficult day, Stivers ’wife took him to Santa Barbara Hospital for four hours, where he was diagnosed with ventricular fibrillation.


From that moment on, he implanted cardiovascular defibrillators in his chest to help keep his heart rate on track. He spent more than six.

“Then, lastly, because the wires tore the tricuspid valve so badly, my heart was so sad,” Stivers said. “The cardiologist sent me to Cedars-Sinai, and they couldn’t fix my heart, so I finally finished [going to the cardiology] and they said, ‘In your situation, transplantation is the way to go.’ “

Stivers, the land surveyor, was not a typical candidate for a new heart.

Dr. Dominic Emerson, associate surgical director of heart transplantation and mechanical circulatory support at Cedars-Sinai Smidt Heart Institute, said: “We perform more adult heart transplants at Cedars than at any other center in the country and the world. as a result, we would not list Don in some places because of his age, and then because of his size. [he is 6 foot, 4 inches tall], the number of organs it can take becomes even less. “


Fortunately, Cedar-Sinai’s cardiac institute hoped to expand the donor base with the help of a new technology.

Staff at Van Nuys Airport, California, preparing for another mission.

TransMedics ’Organ Care System, nicknamed Heart-in-a-Box, allows organs to live outside the body for a longer period of time, which means hospitals can search for a larger geographical radius in search of potential donors.

Traditionally, organs are placed on ice, where the heart, for example, can only be viable for about four hours. With the Heart-in-a-Box being studied by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the organ is connected to a portable device that mimics how it would behave inside the human body.

Cedars-Sinai participated in a number of Heart-in-a-Box trials within the hospital’s common geographical boundaries. But when surgeons called him from Hawaii about a big heart that was young and athletic, they headed to Van Nuys Airport.

At a March 1 dinner, Stivers received a phone call.


“We found a match,” a hospital employee told him. “You should be here when the donor’s heart goes back.”

Stivers and his wife arrived at the hospital around midnight, and began surgery a couple of hours later. The procedure was successful, and Stivers became the first person on the peninsula to receive the heart of Hawaii.

“The surgeon, after putting it on, comes out of the corner of his mouth, saying,‘ Trust me, you have a perfect heart, ’” Stivers recalled.

The river, which was estimated to have six or 12 months left to live with its old heart, is exceeding recovery expectations. He and his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren appreciate the extra time.

“I look forward to jumping off the cliff and doing swimming and biking, hiking and stuff,” Stivers said. “I’m 74, but I’m 24 in my head.”

Now he has a heart to match.

More information

Visit Johns Hopkins Medicine to learn more heart transplants.


SOURCES: Don Stivers, heart transplant recipient, Three Rivers, California; Dominic Emerson, MD, associate surgical director, heart transplant and mechanical circulatory support, Smidt Heart Institute, and surgical director, intensive care unit for heart surgery, Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles

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