Transplant Athlete
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
  For Some Transplant Patients, Diseased Hearts Are Lifesavers

I'd like to thank Laura Johannes for writing this article in the Wall Street Journal (4/14/05). She lays out a couple of really important facts. The article is in the WSJ subscriber section, but you can see a copy here
  1. Transplant centers get paid based on their success rate. No surprise there. What is surprising is that they will often reject potential candidates because they are elderly or too sick to transplant. "Some 50,000 people die each year of congestive heart failure, a progressive worsening of pumping function. Many of those patients would have liked to get placed on the heart-transplant waiting list but couldn't do so, doctors say." That also means that the 5% that leave the list per year as being "too sick to transplant" might just be too sick to guarantee success.
  2. Doctors regularly reject life-saving organs for their patient because they are not "top quality." Last year 2058 hearts were transplanted, but 5,116 hearts were available. Those other 3058 hearts were wasted; burned or buried, instead of saving lives. We spend millions to educate the public on organ donation and doctors reject viable organs.
  3. "Doctors say that those who don't make it usually die from underlying health problems, not problems with the donated heart. "A lot of the hearts that we classified as marginal are working extremely well," says Donna M. Mancini, a cardiologist at Columbia University Medical Center."
  4. For most people, given the choice between death and a not quite perfect organ, I think its a no-brainer.

"Hillel Laks, a transplant surgeon at the University of California at Los Angeles, contends that half the rejected hearts are suitable for transplanting. In his "alternate heart" program here, Dr. Laks refurbishes defective donor hearts, sometimes performing bypass surgery on their clogged arteries while the organs are on ice. He and his colleagues give infected donors heavy-duty antibiotics after brain death but before their hearts are removed. Sometimes, as in the case of Fred Austin, Dr. Laks simply puts an old heart in an old person."
"...Simply puts an old heart in an old person" - Makes sense doesn't it...
"...half the rejected hearts are suitable..." - The hard part here is seeing 1500 individuals. 1500 grandfathers or grandmothers. 1500 parents. The doctors only see 1500 less than perfect hearts, because they lack vision.

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I've gone through kidney failure twice. The first time in 2000, my mother donated a kidney; and again in 2008, I'm on dialysis waiting for a breakthrough in immuno-suppression medicines before seeking a new kidney.

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