Norfolk, VA – Nowhere is the shortage of heart donors more visible than Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. A record eight patients there are currently tied to ventricular assist devices (VADS) that are keeping them alive until donor hearts become available. Six patients are currently in the hospital and two are at home. These six men and two women are among 22 patients in the Sentara transplant program awaiting donor hearts.
“We have never had so many patients on assist devices at one time,” says Betty Crandall, Director of Transplant Programs at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
“Time is of the essence for these patients. VADS are meant to be a temporary measure.”
But ‘temporary’ can be a relative term. Kenneth Stutz has been on a HeartMateä Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) for ten months. “I was blessed to get this device,” says Stutz, a professional meeting planner. “Before the LVAD was implanted, I could barely walk from my car to the house. Now I feel more like my old self.” Thanks to their computer, Stutz and his wife Diann have been able to maintain their business from home.
Stutz suffered a heart attack in 2002, a few weeks after walking along the Great Wall of China with no symptoms of heart disease. The damage to his heart was severe enough to make him a candidate for transplant.
Ironically, neither Kenneth nor Diann Stutz were registered organ donors when he suffered his heart attack. “When you’re not in a life-or-death situation, I guess you’re cavalier about it,” Kenneth says. Diann adds, “we just never thought about it.”
Sentara and LifeNet encourage organ donation through Save7Lives
“Three people in Virginia die each week waiting for an organ transplant,” says Dena Reynolds, Spokesperson for LifeNet, the Hampton Roads-based organ procurement organization. If more people were organ donors, some of those patients at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital might have new hearts by now.”
There are currently 2,000 people in Virginia on the national organ waiting list. The list grows longer every year because there are not enough donors willing to have their organs recovered to save someone else’s life.
That’s why Sentara joined LifeNet as a Workplace Partner in the Save7Lives program. The name comes from one person’s potential to save others. By donating your organs in the event of your death, your kidneys, lungs, heart, liver and pancreas could save the lives of seven other people. If you donate other tissues, such as bone, tendons and ligaments, the number of people whose lives you could enhance jumps to 50. Imagine such a legacy!
“This is the greatest gift you could ever give anyone,” says Reynolds. “And signing up has never been easier.”