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Archive for March, 2012

Nebraska’s First Heart/Liver Transplant Patient Goes Home After “Great Surgery”

Kathryn Slattery knew a heart transplant was a possibility at some point in her life. She never imagined she would get a new liver as well. On January 10, Slattery, then 17 years old, became the first person in Nebraska to ever receive a combination heart and liver transplant.

She recalled the moment when she received the news that a heart and liver were available for transplant.

 

“I was nervous and excited,” she said. “I started texting my friends right away.”

The transplant surgery began late in the afternoon on January 10. It lasted 14 hours. Cardiac surgeons John Um, MD and Jim Hammel, MD performed the heart transplant first. When Slattery’s new heart began beating, the liver transplant team began their portion of the operation. Transplant surgeons Jean Botha, MD, Wendy Grant, MD and David Mercer, MD, PhD worked through the early hours of January 11 to complete the procedure.

“It really was a great surgery all around,” Dr. Mercer said. “The heart surgery was just fantastic; the cardiac transplant team did such a great job.”

 

Heart and liver transplant recipient Kathryn Slattery describes her recovery as transplant surgeon Dr. David Mercer looks on.

 

The transplant was Slattery’s fourth open heart surgery. She was born with a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which causes incomplete development on parts of the left side of the heart.

“Kathryn had pancreatitis in 2008,” her father Jim Slattery said. “That was our first indication there might be a problem with her liver as well.”

On December 1, she called home from school in Lincoln saying she did not feel well. Four days later she was admitted to Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. After spending two weeks at Children’s, she was transferred to The Nebraska Medical Center to be put on the transplant list.

Heart/liver transplants are rare. According to the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network, just 28 such surgeries were done in 2010 and 2011. Of those 28, only three were children.

“We have done so many of the individual organ transplants (heart and liver) here, we felt confident in our ability to do both for Kathryn,” said Dr. Mercer.

Slattery turned 18 during her recovery in the hospital.

“We had a party in one of the conference rooms,” she recalled. “Cake, pizza and opening presents; it was great.”

Slattery said her best present will be to go home and sleep in her own bed for the first time in two months.

The family shared their sincere thanks for the donor, the donor’s family and their sacrifice. They also expressed thanks to everyone at the medical center.

“It was always our choice of where to have this surgery done,” said Marilyn Slattery, Kathryn’s mother. “The confidence we had after meeting the surgical team, and their willingness to do it – that made the decision. I couldn’t imagine having it done anywhere else.”

 

Omaha Man Receives The Nebraska Medical Center’s 100th Heart Transplant

LaShannon Bland knew heart trouble ran in his family. But at age 27, he did not think his heart would start giving out.

LaShannon Bland

“I started feeling tired, short of breath, and felt my heart rhythm was bad,” Bland, now 32 said. “I came to the emergency room thinking I was having an asthma attack. They told me it was heart failure.”

Bland began working closely with heart failure specialist Ioana Dumitru, MD.

“We started him on heart failure medicine,” Dr. Dumitru said. “Unfortunately, his heart didn’t respond. The next step was to implant a left ventricular assist device (LVAD).”

Even with the help of the LVAD, a mechanical device that does much of the heart’s work, Bland’s heart was still failing. Transplant was the only other option.

“I went on the transplant list in January,” he recalled. “A week later, I got the call. February 3rd, 3:00 AM.”

Bland was the 100th heart transplant recipient at the medical center.

“LaShannon did very well in surgery,” said John Um, MD, heart transplant surgeon at The Nebraska Medical Center. “He had a strong recovery and is doing very well now that he’s out of the hospital.”

Bland is deeply grateful for his donor.

“It’s really more than words can express. I really want to thank them, their family, and everyone who had a part in keeping me going,” he said. “It’s my second chance. I feel sad that someone had to leave this earth to keep me on it. My love and my heart goes out to them and their family.”

Bland doesn’t spend much time thinking about being the 100th heart transplant recipient. He’s looking forward to being the father to his three kids he could not be when he was sick. He looks forward to simple things like running with his daughter or playing basketball with his son.

“This milestone, 102 transplants in six years is a great credit to The Nebraska Medical Center and UNMC staff members who work so closely with the patients,” said Jorge Parodi, executive director of cardiovascular services.

Bland feels a special connection to the medical center. Not just for the cardiology and transplant teams, but for the institution as a whole.

“I was born here,” he said. “My first life started here, and my second life started here too.”

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