Heart Transplant Patient Celebrates 25 Years with Donor Heart

December 23, 2014 Brigham and Women's Hospital

Heart transplant recipient Marie Larner (seated in front) and her family.

This holiday season, 81-year-old Marie Larner, a patient at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), says she has a lot to be thankful for.

Twenty-five years ago, the Swansea, MA resident became the recipient of a healthy new heart. Her own heart had enlarged to three times its size due to an infection, causing heart failure. She remembers being at her local hospital when she first heard there was a donor. “When they told me, I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “Everybody was so excited, including my doctors. It came so fast, which was fortunate for me, because I don’t think I had much longer to go.”

Marie is one of hundreds of patients who have received a second chance at life due to the efforts of BWH’s Heart Transplant Program, which is celebrating its 30th year. In 1984, a surgery team led by cardiac surgeon Lawrence H. Cohn, MD, performed New England’s first heart transplant. Today, the team-based program consists of cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, and nurse practitioners. The BWH Heart Transplant team has performed over 600 heart transplants, the most of any New England hospital. It remains one of the busiest cardiac transplantation and mechanical circulatory support programs in the region.

“One of the reasons I think she’s done well for so long is the incredible care she has taken of herself, with her family’s support, and her precious donor heart,” says Michael Givertz, MD, Medical Director of the Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program. “Her family has played an extremely important role in helping us to help her maintain good health.”

As for the program’s anniversary, Dr. Givertz calls it a huge milestone.

“It’s the oldest and largest transplant program in New England and has always had superior outcomes that surpass national and international averages,” Dr. Givertz says. “We take extreme pride in patients like Marie who are doing so well long after their transplant.”

Adds Marie: “I’ve had the chance to see my two granddaughters get married and know my three great-grandsons. It’s been a wonderful gift.”

Learn about organ donation at www.neob.org.

- Michelle C. /Jamie R.

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