March 13th, 2017
Kraig Gresham was 47 years old when he received his heart transplant, but his journey to that life-changing surgery began years earlier. Kraig was born with aortic stenosis — a birth defect that causes heart valves to narrow and obstruct blood flow. As a child he had heart problems as a result of his condition. Despite that, Kraig was able to lead an active lifestyle, participating in sports like soccer and racquetball from the time he was young.
As an adult, Kraig knew he would eventually need a valve replacement due to his chronic heart condition. But when he began having bronchitis-like symptoms in his 40s, he was referred to Mayo Clinic with a more immediate problem: he was experiencing heart failure.
August 16th, 2016
Michael Tyler and William Tiger didn’t know one another before the summer of 2016. But they now share a unique life event. Both 55-year-olds underwent heart transplant surgery at Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus on the same day, at the same time. Completing the simultaneous procedures was a milestone for the Transplant Center team in Arizona, who had not previously been called on to perform more than one heart transplant at a time.
“It was truly remarkable how the team came together,” says transplant coordinator Allison Smith, who said the offers for both hearts came in on a Friday afternoon. Extensive coordination and precise timing were crucial to providing the best possible outcomes for the patients.
“When we all came in on Monday morning and knew the patients were doing well, it was like a euphoric high,” she says. Read the rest of this entry »
June 28th, 2016
When Randy Marlow checked into Mayo Clinic Hospital's Saint Marys Campus, he knew his hospital stay would be lengthy. He just wasn’t expecting it to last one year, seven months and 21 days.
As someone who needed dual heart and liver transplants, Randy knew the probability of two suitable donor organs becoming available at the same time was small. Moreover, his rare blood type, coupled with a buildup of antibodies from multiple blood transfusions related to prior heart surgeries, meant he would be incompatible with all but 10 to 20 percent of organ donors, according to his physicians.
So Randy, an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed snowmobiling back home in the Colorado Rockies, riding his ATV, and camping, shifted his perspective from action to endurance.
Patience became the operative word. "You have to take it day by day and wait for that right day, for the miracle," Randy says. Read the rest of this entry »
April 10th, 2016
For 33-year-old Tara Brigham of Jacksonville, Florida, living with a heart condition since birth wasn't something that was going to get in the way of living an active normal life. In fact, she says the heart transplant she received six years ago as a result of her condition has made her life even more fulfilling.
A Minnesota native, Tara was diagnosed with enlargement of the heart during a routine checkup when she was 1 year old. While she had not had any symptoms of a heart problem since birth, the enlargement was significant enough that her physician at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus suggested that a biopsy of her heart should be done right away. She was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick. The thickened heart muscle can make it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body to vital organs.
Tara's heart was monitored closely by her doctors at Mayo Clinic and later a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy specialist at the University of Minnesota. Since Tara was an active, healthy child otherwise, and what was known about her condition in children was limited, she was not put on medication, but doctors advised that she avoid strenuous activities. Read the rest of this entry »
December 8th, 2015
When Clint Frederick learned that he needed a heart transplant, he naturally wondered what the road ahead would look like. So he searched for a book that described the process from a patient’s perspective.
His search came up short. But it planted seed. Perhaps he'd change things for other patients.
"After I was approved for a heart transplant, I decided to keep a diary," he says. The diary became the basis for a book, supplemented by information he drew from his medical record, that chronicles Clint's 110 days on the transplant list. But his story begins long before his wait for a new heart. Read the rest of this entry »
June 4th, 2015
Born with five congenital heart defects and suffering through several medical complications, Courtney needed both a new heart and a new liver. Previous surgeries at ages 2, 6, 12 and then again at 22, and numerous blood transfusions over the years, had caused her immune system to develop high levels of antibodies that would attack and reject foreign tissues.
She was told that her risk of organ rejection was too high if she received a heart and liver transplant in the usual order. Her Mayo Clinic doctors, however, turned her dire situation into an advantage, and she was one of the first in the world to receive an organ transplant in a way that was likely her only chance to survive. Read the rest of this entry »
February 6th, 2015
Mayo Clinic patient Don Salamone is proof that being in great shape before undergoing a heart transplant can enhance recovery. Even while tethered to a ventricular assist device that kept his heart functioning until the transplant surgery, he pushed himself to work out on a stationary bike for two hours daily and walked several miles on a treadmill.
While he could handily beat the competition in races before he received the implanted device, he couldn’t beat viral cardiomyopathy, which makes it harder for your heart to pump and deliver blood to the rest of your body, and can lead to heart failure.
Don underwent his heart transplant surgery in October 2012. True to his mission, he spent only eight days in the hospital following the surgery.
“I made a pledge to be in good shape before the surgery and to always honor my responsibility to my donor to take care of this heart,” Don says. As a result, within days of his surgery, he was up early, walking laps, training and eventually competing in numerous runs in Arizona and elsewhere.
Fast forward to Jan. 16, 2015. Now close to age 60, Don was living his promise. He was at the 10K starting line at the popular P.F. Chang’s Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in Phoenix, where some 30,000 athletes participated. Read the rest of this entry »
March 25th, 2013
By Makala Arce
"They told me to go home and get my things in order," says Beki, a 51-year-old mother of three with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia. The congenital condition had so damaged Beki's heart and liver that she would need a rare heart-liver transplant to survive. But a recent diagnosis of liver cancer meant that Beki was not a candidate for a liver transplant. "I was told no doctor would take my case."
March 22nd, 2013
By Makala Arce
“I get out of breath when I walk up stairs,” he told his doctor.
A chest X-ray revealed healthy lungs but an enlarged heart. Dan would soon learn why: he had familial amyloidosis with liver involvement and needed to seek care at a medical center with experience treating this rare form of the disease. Dan chose Mayo Clinic, and during his initial consultations there, he learned he would need both a liver and heart transplant. Read the rest of this entry »
December 8th, 2012
As a marathon runner and long-distance cyclist, Dan Olson thought his athletic lifestyle ensured a healthy body. But in 2002, at age 38, Dan was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a condition that weakens and enlarges the heart muscle.
"I couldn't believe it," he says. "I kept thinking, 'I'm in good shape. It can't really be that bad.' "
In fact, his condition was so serious that Dan was airlifted from a Wisconsin hospital to Mayo Clinic, where his doctors told him that his heart had been damaged beyond repair. Dan would need a heart transplant. Read the rest of this entry »