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Have a Heart

Are you an organ donor? If so, congratulations — you are among the 42 percent of the adult population in the U.S. who are registered as organ donors in state donor registries. A simple check on the ‘donor’ box option at the DMV may reduce the devastation of the 18 people who die each day from lack of available organs for transplant.

According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, 3,557 patients are currently waiting for a new heart from a donor, and 3,500 heart transplant surgeries are performed worldwide annually.

Christiaan Barnard, a South African cardiac surgeon, performed the first successful heart transplant on the 3rd of December in 1967. Unfortunately, the patient’s body eventually rejected the foreign organ.

Cyclosporine and Tacrolimus are anti-rejection medications discovered in the 1970s and 1980s. They suppress the body’s immune system to help prevent the body from rejecting the new heart, but since they suppress the immune system, they also increase susceptibility of disease in the patient.

72.4 percent of patients who opt for heart transplant are males, while the remaining 27.6 percent are females. Prognosis for heart transplant patients after surgery has increased over the last few decades. As recently as June 5, 2009, the survival rates for males and females were: 1 year : 88.0% (males), 86.2% (females) 3 years: 79.3 percent (males), 77.2 percent (females) 5 years: 73.2 percent (males), 69.0 percent (females)

50 percent of patients live ten years after having a heart transplant surgery. Even 16 percent of patients are still alive, twenty years after a heart transplant.

Heart transplant operations usually take about four hours. Patients who are on the transplant list carry a pager with them at all times, so they are available to report to the transplant center at a moment’s notice. When a donor heart becomes available, time is of the essence.

In 2008, the average cost of expenses during the first year (including surgery, hospitalization, lab testing and medications) was estimated at a whopping $787,700!

There are many risks associated with heart transplant surgery. Blood clots and damage to the kidneys, liver, and other organs from anti-rejection medications are just among the few. Furthermore, heart transplant surgery carries a higher risk of cancer development due to certain drugs used to prevent organ rejection. Other risks include heart attack, stroke, heart rhythm problems and high cholesterol levels.

Additional complications may include diabetes, bone thinning, an increased risk for infections, rejection of the heart, severe coronary artery disease, wound infections and bleeding infection.

The surgery alone doesn’t pose the only risk. The use of anesthsia may pose health complications that can range anywhere between reactions to medication to difficulty breathing.

5 tips for a healthy heart: 1. Don’t smoke or use tobacco. 2. Exercise

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for 30 minutes 4 or more days a week. 3. Eat a heart-healthy diet. 4. Maintain a healthy weight. 5. Get regular health screenings.

15 percent of patients die while waiting for a new heart. Organ donation saves lives. Be an organ donor. Visit our homepage,, for more information on your organ transplantation options.