Mass General's heart transplant program continues to grow, reflecting strong leadership and close coordination with other experts in heart failure.

Kevin Daignault, 55, says his wife, Susan, just happened to notice her smartphone light up in the early morning hours of Dec. 29, 2017, having somehow missed dozens of other urgent calls from a small office on Cox 6 at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Six hours later, it felt surreal to be at the hospital being prepared for transplant surgery.”

Karen Turvey, CNP, of Transplant Surgery, was repeatedly dialing the couple with the news that a donor heart had become available – and Mr. Daignault was first in line to receive it.

“We packed a bag and got on the road,” says Mr. Daignault. He and Susan immediately set out on the more than five-hour drive to Mass General from northern Vermont. “Six hours later it felt surreal to be at the hospital being prepared for transplant surgery.”

Heart Transplant Milestone

It was days later – while in recovery – that Mr. Daignault learned he was the 500th patient to receive a heart transplant at Mass General, which began its heart transplant program in 1985.

“Kevin was also the 40th transplant we performed in 2017, which is almost double the number we achieved for patients two years ago,” says David D’Alessandro, MD, surgical director of MGH Heart Transplantation and a member of Mr. Daignault’s care team.

Kerry Gaj, NP, of Transplant Surgery, credits this increase to the strong, dedicated leadership of both Dr. D’Alessandro and Greg Lewis, MD, medical director for Heart Transplantation, as well as the “close coordination the program enjoys with other experts in heart failure.”

“It really feels like a new lease on life,” says Mr. Daignault. “I feel like I’m starting life all over again.”

New Lease on Life

One of those experts is Johannes Steiner, MD, a cardiologist and heart failure specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Dr. Steiner trained at Mass General and remains on staff with the MGH Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Program. “When I first met Kevin in late 2016, he was debilitated by his end-stage heart failure,” says Dr. Steiner. “We soon realized medical management would not suffice, and heart transplantation was his only viable option.”

With a referral from Dr. Steiner, Mr. Daignault underwent surgery at Mass General in October to receive a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a mechanical heart pump. He then was placed on the transplant list as Status Code 1A, a high priority for transplant based on medical needs. Mr. Daignault’s heart was transplanted less than three months after the LVAD placement, just in time for the new year.

“It really feels like a new lease on life,” says Mr. Daignault. “I feel like I’m starting life all over again.”

To learn more about how you can support heart transplant care and research at Mass General, please contact us.

This story was originally published in MGH Hotline.