KANSAS CITY, Mo. —It’s a life-changing surgery for a Leawood man and a milestone procedure for Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute. Surgeons there just performed the 900th heart transplant.
Life was good for Stephen White, 62, of Leawood. He’s a successful veterinarian, a deacon at his church, and he has a new grandchild. Then came news his heart was failing and that he would need a transplant. It would not be simple. He’s had surgeries before.
“It’s difficult when you go in a second or third time, lots of scar tissue and so forth. So, it wasn’t like I was, you know, slam-dunk routine,” White said.
White’s case would represent a milestone for doctors at Saint Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute. He marks the 900th heart transplant there.
“Nine-hundred families that will see their children get married, their children go to school, maybe they’ll get married themselves and grandchildren, is just so amazing,” said Dr. Andrew Kao.
Kao says every one of the 900 transplants was unique, including White’s and his transplant came on a special day. On Father’s Day this year, he received the word they had found a heart. He said it was the best present he could ask for.
“I have two lovely daughters and they were there, you know, every day,” White said. “I was very emotional through the whole thing. Early on, I still can tear up sometimes talking about it.”
The Saint Luke’s transplant team is proud to look at success stories like his.
“My friends that had these hats made for us,” Kao said.
White got some extra attention being the 900th transplant patient, but said he knows he would get the same level of care regardless.
“You’re their patient, you’re their priority and I’m just so thankful, so grateful,” White said.
In the early days of heart transplants, life expectancy after surgery was about five years. Thanks to improved technology, better anti-rejection drugs and infection control, patients can expect to love 25 to 30 years after transplant.
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