MAYWOOD, IL – A grandfather from Hanover Park, Illinois recently became the 800th patient to receive a heart transplant at Loyola University Medical Center.
“It was like winning the lottery,” said José Garcia, a 53-year-old industrial mechanic with three daughters and three grandchildren.
Loyola performed its first heart transplant on March 11, 1984 and has performed more heart transplants than any other center in Illinois. During the first 10 months of 2016, Loyola performed 29 heart transplants, which also is the highest in Illinois.
Following two heart attacks, Mr. Garcia developed ischemic cardiomyopathy, which weakened his left ventricle (the heart’s main pumping chamber), leading to heart failure. Mr. Garcia suffered fatigue, swelling in his feet, severe shortness of breath and other symptoms of end-stage heart failure.
In November 2015, Loyola cardiothoracic surgeon Edwin McGee, Jr., MD, implanted a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) in Mr. Garcia and repaired his heart’s tricuspid valve. An LVAD is a pump that helps the left ventricle pump blood to the rest of the body. This “bridge to transplant” therapy saved Mr. Garcia’s life during the 10 months he spent waiting for a transplant.
Mr. Garcia underwent a successful heart transplant in September 2016, which was performed by cardiothoracic surgeon Jeffrey Schwartz, MD. Mr. Garcia’s new heart is working normally and there has been no rejection. “I feel a whole lot better,” he said.
Mr. Garcia has high praise for Loyola’s entire heart transplant team. In addition to Drs. McGee and Schwartz, the team includes Mr. Garcia’s cardiologists, Alain Heroux, MD, and Max Liebo, MD, and nurse coordinators, registered nurses, procurement coordinators, infectious disease specialists, nurse practitioners, anesthesiologists, transplant chaplains, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, dietitians, financial coordinators, clinical pharmacists, social workers and psychologists.
“Everyone on the team has been great,” Mr. Garcia said.
Loyola takes the most challenging cases and provides follow-up care for hundreds of heart transplant patients. Patients who have been turned down by other transplant centers are invited to come to Loyola for a second opinion. Loyola’s one-month and one-year patient- and graft-survival rates exceed national averages.
The program includes top cardiologists and surgeons with decades of experience, including Dr. Heroux, medical director of heart failure and heart transplantation, Mamdouh Bakhos, MD, surgical director of heart failure and heart transplantation and heart transplant surgeon Bryan K. Foy, MD.
Loyola Medicine is nationally recognized for its expertise in diagnosing and treating a broad range of heart and vascular conditions. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois has selected Loyola as a Blue Distinction® Center+ for cardiac care, and Becker’s Hospital Review named Loyola to its 2016 list of "100 hospitals and health systems with great heart programs."