Posted by Makala Johnson (@makalajohnson) · Mar 25, 2013
Rare heart-liver transplant gives South Carolina woman a second chance at life
"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."
Then she came to Mayo Clinic, where Russell H. Wiesner, M.D., a gastroenterologist, gave her a reason to hope.
"Dr. Wiesner didn’t think I had liver cancer," says Beki. Imaging exams had shown large nodules on her liver, which doctors assumed were cancerous. "No one had been willing to do a biopsy until we got to Mayo."
A biopsy showed the nodules were benign. Beki was eligible for the transplant list.
Of the 130 heart-liver transplants that have been performed in the United States, 25 have been performed at Mayo Clinic — more than at any other medical center. Beki was comforted by Mayo's experience, but knew the odds still weren't in her favor.
"My panel-reactive antibody level was 93 percent, which meant my body would only accept 7 percent of donor organs," says Beki. Doctors implanted a ventricular assist device to help her heart pump blood until a viable donor heart became available. Nine months later, she received a transplant.
"My experience was amazing," says Beki, who is regaining her strength after nearly 20 years of deteriorating health. "The unusual is usual at Mayo. I wish more people would be advocates for their own health care and go to Mayo for help. Mayo is there for everyone."