Don Sheard had been getting along OK with the battery-powered device that for three years had been helping his heart pump blood through his body.

The former drywall finisher from Elmwood, Nebraska, was still able to ride motorcycles. But he was just maintaining, not moving forward.

“I feel like a teenager again,” Don Sheard said after undergoing a new type of heart transplant.
JANICE SHEARD

On Jan. 3, Sheard, 70, underwent a new type of heart transplant at the Nebraska Medical Center. The procedure, the first of its kind in the state, involved transplanting a heart that had been revived after it stopped beating. While the method has been used in the past in transplanting other organs, it’s been done with fewer than 10 hearts in the U.S.

Alittle more than three weeks after the procedure, Sheard said Thursday that he’s feeling stronger every day. And he’s looking forward to getting out on the water and doing some fishing without having to worry about his batteries running low.

“I feel like a teenager again,” he said. “I’ve got things to look forward to again. … Now I can live life again.”

Dr. Brian Lowes, the medical center’s medical director of advanced heart failure and transplantation, said the procedure has the potential to expand the pool of donors and save lives.

Heart transplants are relatively uncommon, with between 3,000 and 4,000 performed in the U.S. each year, Lowes said. That’s not near enough for the hundreds of thousands of people who die every year from heart failure.

Traditionally, hearts are recovered after donors’ brains cease to function, said Dr. Marian Urban, the cardiothoracic surgeon at the medical center who led the effort to offer the new procedure. Machines keep the lungs and heart going until the organs can be recovered for transplant.

The newer type of transplant, called donation after circulatory death, involves connecting donors whose hearts have stopped beating to machines that restore circulation to the heart and other organs while they’re inside the body.

Urban said this typically occurs after donors have suffered a critical injury or illness and family members, after discussions with doctors, have decided to withdraw further care.

Dr. Brian Lowes
NEBRASKA MEDICINE

Doctors at the medical center, like those at transplant centers around the world, have used the method to recover other organs, including kidneys and livers, for some time.

But the method’s use in the heart is cutting-edge, Lowes said. Historically, once a heart stopped, it could not be recovered. Many patients who need hearts spend years on transplant lists, and many die while waiting.

“This is opening up a whole new opportunity for heart transplantation for patients,” Lowes said.

Traditionally, hearts are recovered after donors’ brains cease to function, said Dr. Marian Urban, the cardiothoracic surgeon at the medical center who led the effort to offer the new procedure. Machines keep the lungs and heart going until the organs can be recovered for transplant.

The newer type of transplant, called donation after circulatory death, involves connecting donors whose hearts have stopped beating to machines that restore circulation to the heart and other organs while they’re inside the body.

Urban said this typically occurs after donors have suffered a critical injury or illness and family members, after discussions with doctors, have decided to withdraw further care.

Doctors at the medical center, like those at transplant centers around the world, have used the method to recover other organs, including kidneys and livers, for some time.

But the method’s use in the heart is cutting-edge, Lowes said. Historically, once a heart stopped, it could not be recovered. Many patients who need hearts spend years on transplant lists, and many die while waiting.

“This is opening up a whole new opportunity for heart transplantation for patients,” Lowes said.

Urban said he believes that the procedure has been performed fewer than 10 times in the U.S. He’s aware of seven such heart transplants performed at New York University and one at Vanderbilt University. The procedure has also been used in Europe.

In Sheard’s case, doctors presented him with both transplant options. Sheard said he recognized that he was getting older. And he felt as if his condition had begun to slip. He agreed to either type of transplant. He just happened to be a match for a heart that had stopped beating.

Lowes said other patients are interested in the option, so it’s likely that doctors will do it again, given their success.

“He’s lighted the way for other people to go forward and do this,” Lowes said of Sheard. “And it’s going to save lives.”

Sheard said he is thankful for the surgeons and other health care workers involved in his care. He’s also grateful for his donor. He and his wife, Janice, have been married for 33 years and have four children and nine grandchildren.

“I believe they also live through me by doing this,” he said of his donor. “I’m a blessed person. I’m a happy man. The science that it takes to do this is amazing.”

 

Transplant News Sharing // “Heart Transplants” – Google News from Source omaha.com

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