Hospital physicians and staff are celebrating life and touting the importance of organ donation.
NORFOLK, VA. (May 11, 2010) – Surgeons at Sentara Heart Hospital transplanted the 300th heart recipient on Monday, May 4th. The Sentara Heart Transplant program celebrated its 20th anniversary in August of last year and now marks 300 heart transplants since the program inception in 1989.
More remarkable than hitting the milestone itself is the story of the 300th patient. Brooke Briggs is a 30-year-old woman who as recently as a month ago did not even realize she had a deadly heart condition. She was a regular exerciser, working out four to five times a week. In April of this year she began feeling short of breath, which not only impacted her exercise regimen but quickly affected her ability to simply cross the parking lot.
Within a few weeks, Briggs was admitted to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital with pneumonia and rapidly deteriorating health. Doctors determined that Briggs’ heart was failing. Surgeons at Sentara Heart Hospital were mobilized and implanted a biventricular assist device (BiVAD), a machine that can assume the pumping function of a failing heart. Briggs was immediately placed on the transplant list awaiting a heart.
“I woke up and there was a big blue machine next to me,” Briggs explained.
Just two weeks later, Briggs received the gift of life in the form of a new heart.
Family and friends describe Briggs as someone who is full of life. In her professional job fundraising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, she is well known to many in the community.
Dr. Michael McGrath, one of the transplant surgeons who operated on Briggs says that her prognosis is good. According to family and friends, her transplant occurred at 6:30 am and Briggs was watching ‘Dancing with the Stars’ later that night. McGrath says he is confident she will thrive as a transplant recipient.
“This vibrant, energetic lady will continue to lead a full and active life with this new, high functioning heart,” he adds.
With the love and support of family and friends, Briggs is letting the recent changes in her life sink in. In the short term, that means focusing on her recovery by gradually regaining strength and independence. After focusing on others for so long, Briggs is learning how to focus on herself.
For today, that meant taking her first steps since surgery. Briggs is expected to be released from the hospital later this week.
In addition to celebrating this milestone with Briggs and her family, physicians and staff at Sentara Heart Hospital are hoping this story will help to educate the community about the importance of organ donation.
As for Briggs’ next goal? She’s hoping to fulfill a commitment to serve as a bridesmaid in her friend’s May 22nd wedding.