Shands Heart Transplant Program marks 25th anniversary

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 3, 2011) – As he waited for a heart transplant in May 1985, doctors told John Kear that his days were numbered.

Kear, who suffered a heart attack in 1981 and later developed a blood clot in his left ventricular chamber, waited for a heart transplant, knowing this procedure did not guarantee his survival.

He received his transplant at Shands at the University of Florida on Feb. 6, 1986.

Today, the 71-year-old Gainesville resident is defying doctors’ expectations. He’s living with the same transplanted heart he received 25 years ago.

As the Shands at UF Heart Transplant program celebrates its 25th anniversary, Kear’s story is just one of many examples of the second chance at life that UF cardiovascular surgeons provide to heart transplant patients.

“These doctors and nurses and coordinators at Shands at UF have been wonderful for me, and the main reason I’ve lived 25 years is because they’ve paid attention to me and they care,” Kear said.

UF cardiologists and heart transplant surgeons have given 829 patients the gift of life since the adult and pediatric heart transplant programs began at Shands, in 1985 and 1986, respectively.

The Shands Heart Transplant Program at UF team was the first in the state to perform all thoracic solid-organ transplants – adult, pediatric and infant heart transplants as well as combined heart-lung transplants. To date, UF transplant surgeons have performed 676 adult and 153 pediatric heart transplants.

“This 25th anniversary is a very special time for us,” said Juan M. Aranda, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.C., UF College of Medicine professor of medicine and Shands Heart Transplant Program at UF medical director. “We’re reflecting on the achievements of the program and the excellent outcomes we’ve achieved. We especially honor our donor families and transplant recipients.”

The transplant team and recipient patients will gather March 4 for a reception and dinner at the Hilton at UF. Aranda, who has been with the program since 1997, expects about 300 to 400 heart transplant recipients to attend the reunion. Sen. Steve Oelrich, whose son Nick’s organs and tissue were donated to save or enhance the lives of 108 people in 1995, will speak at the event.

“From our UF surgeons and cardiologists, to the excellent Shands transplant and nursing teams, we have excellent collaboration to ensure good patient outcomes,” Aranda said. “It’s an honor to be able to care for patients all across the state and even into Georgia.”

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For more information:

Heart Transplant Program

Pediatric heart transplant process

Berlin Heart Information

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Shands at UF Mechanical Circulatory Assist Device Program (VAD Program)