A Heart Transplant Gives Man a Second Chance

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Jill DeStefano, Transplant Coordinator, Larry Kish, and Dr. Paul Mather

Larry Kish’s first stroke in 2007 was the start of his heart problems. His second, four years later, brought him to Jefferson University Hospitals under the care of Paul Mather, MD, director of the Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Center at the Jefferson Heart Institute.

The Bethlehem, Pa., man had been cared for by a local cardiologist Joseph Neri, MD, but after his second stroke, it became clear that Larry’s heart was failing and that he was in need of advanced care. Dr. Neri sent his patient to Jefferson and Dr. Mather who specializes in the medical care of patients with advanced heart failure.

Larry began seeing Dr. Mather in the spring of 2011, regularly making the 70-mile trip from his home to Philadelphia.

“At the time we met Mr. Kish, his cardiac status had deteriorated to the point where advanced therapies such as intravenous medicine support and mechanical assist device support needed to be considered to allow him to survive until he received a heart transplant,” says Dr. Mather.

Larry was hospitalized for several weeks in the fall of 2011 for congestive heart failure. A heart transplant was his best option for survival.

He was placed on the transplant waiting list and went home on continuous intravenous medications. As his condition worsened, Larry returned to Jefferson for surgery to place a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, a small mechanical heart placed inside his chest, to help the heart pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.

“The LVAD doesn’t replace the heart, it helps it do its job,” explains Dr. Mather. “It can be used for patients whose hearts need to rest after open-heart surgery, or are too weak to effectively pump on their own, even with intravenous medications. Also, these devices can be used as ‘bridges to transplant’ for those patients who are waiting for a heart transplant but whose bodies are not responding to aggressive medical therapy, as in Larry’s case.”

But, as can happen with the best made plans, circumstances intervened to prevent Larry from getting his LVAD.

On the day Larry went to see Dr. Mather at the cardiologist’s office at the Jefferson Heart Institute to learn about and be prepared for admission to the Hospital for the LVAD implantation, everything changed, in the very best of ways.

Dr. Mather entered the room with a thoughtful look.

“Larry,” the patient recalls the physician saying, “I think we have a heart for you.”

“I thought he was kidding, but it then became clear that he was absolutely serious.”

So later that day, Larry was prepped for surgery, not to get an LVAD, but for a heart transplant.

The transplant was an immediate success. After a two-week stay at Jefferson and six weeks at a rehabilitation facility, the 56-year-old electronics technician with the U.S. Postal Service was on his way to a new life.

He almost immediately was able to return to one of his first loves: music, playing the keyboard in his band as he has for years. When he sufficiently recovered, he joined a gym. He returns to Jefferson every three months for monitoring. And he hopes to soon return to his job.

For now, he is enjoying life and happy for a second chance.

“Dr. Mather and the transplant team at Jefferson truly saved my life,” he says.

 

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