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Health Team

Duke completes 1,500th heart transplant

Posted October 21, 2020 9:10 p.m. EDT
Updated October 22, 2020 8:17 p.m. EDT

— In the midst of the pandemic, Duke University Hospital last week completed its 1,500th heart transplant, a milestone achieved by only five other transplant centers nationwide.

Surgeons performed the first heart transplant at Duke in 1985, and the hospital recorded its 1,000th heart transplant in 2014.

"It’s taken us six years to accomplish the next milestone, which we think is of significance," Said Dr. Chet Patel, Duke's medical director for heart transplants.

Michael Woods is one of those 1,500 heart transplant recipients.

"The closer I got to 2020, the faster my health declined. I was told I needed to have a heart and kidney transplant," Woods said.

In May, he received what's called a DCD, or donation after circulatory death, transplant, a cutting-edge method that Duke pioneered in the U.S. In a DCD transplant, the donor heart is resuscitated by a device after the donor experiences cardiac failure, and the heart is then kept pumping.

"It recirculates blood, lets the heart stay warm, and it continues to beat, and the tissues stay healthy while it’s being transported," Patel said. "That allows us a lot more time to get the heart back."

Woods said the Duke doctors and hospital staff boosted his spirits because pandemic restrictions kept his family and friends from visiting him.

"It’s just a beautiful thing, to be quite honest, I feel really good about it," he said of his transplant. "Now, I feel like I get to walk my daughter down the aisle when she gets married, hold my first grandchild and things like that, whereas before ... I was just unsure whether or not I’d be here for that."

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