Born with heart defects from blue baby syndrome, AnaliseSantos rallied through surgeries for much of her life. Santos had major openheart surgery at four years old. As a child, she could not play in gym class,got pneumonia frequently, and had a pacemaker put in when she was 14. When shewas 25, a ruptured artery in her left leg led to a double bypass operation inher abdomen, leaving her paralyzed for about three months. Five years later,the bypass was completely blocked, so she had femoral artery surgery. Later, Santos’s cardiaccondition had deteriorated and she was subsequently added to theheart transplant list and she continued withnumerous medical appointments up to her transplant operation at HUP on June 25,2010.
Now Santos is in the “best health” of her life and witnessedmany milestones she otherwise might not have experienced, such as her son’swedding (13 months after the transplant operation) and college graduation.
Penn’sHeart Failure and Transplantation Program performs more adult heart transplantsper year than all other Philadelphia area hospitals combined, making it one ofthe top three heart transplantation programs in the nation. Even though itsfaculty and staff treat some of the most complex cases, its heart transplantoutcomes are among the nation’s best, with three-year survival rates greaterthan 80 percent.
“We are very fortunate tohave a very experienced team, including surgeons, cardiologists, nursepractitioners, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, as well as an extended‘family’ within the Transplant Institute,” said Lee Goldberg, MD, MPH,the program’s medical director. “This includestransplant infectious diseases, renal, oncology, HLA lab, toxicology and manyothers who all contribute to our outcomes. Without a comprehensive,multidisciplinary team, we could not be successful.”
Beyondthat, he added, “working closely with our patients and their families and ourpartners at Gift of Life Donor Program, we’ve been able to makesignificant progress in heart transplantation care."
The program’s success can be measured by its 2012 Departmentof Health and Human Services Bronze Medal of Honor award for its role inincreasing the number of organs available and transplanted in the UnitedStates. The program has also received certification from TheAccreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to train foursenior cardiology fellows during the last two years and four additional fellowsnext year.
After suffering three heart attacks and a stroke – and receivingthree stentsand 19 cardiac catheterizations -- Ronald Kersetter measures theprogram by its role in saving his life. While Kersetter was on the hearttransplant list, a tragic accident occurred. Members of the victim’s familydesignated him to receive their loved one’s heart . The approximately 170 miletrip from central Pennsylvania to HUP with his daughter “seemed like forever,”he said.
Soon after the heart transplant, members of the familyvisited Kerstetter in the hospital to share well wishes. “What they did for mewas absolutely incredible,” said Kerstetter. “The fact that it matched was amiracle. I think about it every day.”
Thanks to the new heart, these days are fundamentallychanged. “I have 11 steps to my bedroom at night,” said Kerstetter. “Beforetransplant, I could do four without stopping, four more and stop, then do thelast three and catch my breath a third time. That’s how bad my heart was. If itweren’t for them, I’m not sure if I’d be here today to tell you this story. I’mso glad that it worked out and so glad I came here for my transplant.”
Kerstetter, who just finished cardiac rehab, visits thegym three days a week, plays golf, and recently went hunting. “After years ofnot doing anything, I can’t keep still,” said Kerstetter. “You realize howshort life can be."
“Dr. [Michael] Acker, [MD], and the entire Penn team keep megoing and make the necessary changes,” said Kerstetter. “Sometimes withmultiple caregivers you get issues where one says one thing and another onesays another thing. I don’t see that here. Even though I often see someonedifferent, I’m glad I do because I like all of them.”
A similar sentiment extends to the Clyde Barker TransplantHouse where Kerstetter stays when coming to Penn for appointments. “It’s agreat place over there,” he said. “They’re amazing. I’m nine months sincetransplant and I walk in and everyone calls me by name.”
With his current good health, Kerstetter hopes to offersupport to those waiting for a transplant during his monthly visits to thePerelman Center for Advanced Medicine. “I tell people you need to sign up to bean organ donor and I also pray that you never die because you needed one andcouldn’t get it.”
Wesley Morris, who underwent heart transplant in March 1988,is another success story. He is HUP’s oldest living transplant patient. After experiencing two heart attacks in 16 months, Morris was encouraged by hisneighbor, at the time a Penn cardiologist, to go into the hospital as soon aspossible.
Morris was 48 when received his transplant. Today, at73, he works out at the gym three days a week. “I’ve been veryfortunate,” he said. “Everyone at Penn is knowledgeable, patient, and treatsyou with respect. I love everyone I met there.”
Penn’s transplant team performs more adult heart transplantsannually than all other Philadelphia area hospitals combined and is the thirdlargest program nationally. It continuously employs numerous advances to keepthose with heart failure in the best possible shape going into their transplant.During transplant, the team uses the latest effective medications and methodsto minimize any possible rejection and prevent infection and other issues thatwere more common in transplant centers years ago.
On December 2, 2012, HUP’s transplant team marked 25 yearsby completing their 1,000th lifesaving heart transplant.
Photo (top): Patient Analise Santos (c.) with members of Penn’s heart transplant team (l. to r.): Debbie Gordon, Patricia Poderis, Nicole Wynne, Ava Dunn-Shaw, Maria R. Molina, Patricia Stutman, and Christine Gearhart.
Photo (right): (from l to r) Patricia Stutman, Maria R. Molina, Lee Goldberg, Christine Gearhart, and patientRonald Kersetter