As thunderstorms ripped through Hampton Roads late Wednesday afternoon—more than the skies were in turmoil.
Etta Bagwell’s pager went off on the Eastern Shore signaling that a heart had become available to her after nearly six months on the transplant waiting list. The clock was ticking as the 63-year-old Exmore, Virginia resident called Sentara’s Transplant Center. With only two hours to get to the hospital to begin the process for surgery, time was critical. The trouble was, Bagwell had no way to get to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital more than 60 miles away. Without hesitation, her long-time cardiologist John M. Herre, M.D., medical director of Sentara’s heart failure and heart transplant program decided to make the drive himself during a severe thunderstorm.
"It’s beautiful that Dr. Herre came himself to pick up my mom," said Valdine Hope, Bagwell’s daughter.
Patient and doctor made good time back to the hospital—but did enjoy the spectacular sunset while crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in the calm after the storm.
A first for Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Etta Bagwell was among two patients who simultaneously received heart transplants during operations that night. Kenneth Stutz of Virginia Beach and Bagwell entered adjacent operating rooms within 30 minutes of each other, after two suitable donor hearts became available around the same time.
Both patients are doing well post-surgery.
Sentara’s Transplant Center performs an average of 12-18 heart transplants each year and has performed more than 225 since the program’s inception in 1989.