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The Beat Goes On: Hartford Hospital Celebrates 500th Heart Transplant

October 12, 2021

On Thursday, Sept. 30, in an operating room within Hartford Hospital, a lifesaving milestone was achieved, as Drs. Ayyaz Ali and Jonathan Hammond skillfully and successfully transplanted the program’s 500th heart. “This is a truly amazing achievement for our hospital and health system,” said Hartford Hospital President Bimal Patel. “With this milestone we celebrate the entire Hartford Hospital transplant and Heart & Vascular teams and all of their efforts to make our hospital one of the top transplant hospitals in the nation. Today, we also recognize the great history of the program and all of the lives saved because of our team’s skill and dedication.” To orchestrate and perform a heart transplant requires a team with a very deep bench and versatile skillsets. The multidisciplinary team includes the heart transplant surgeons, transplant cardiologists, financial coordinators, social worker, psychologist, dietitian, Nurse Coordinators, Advanced Providers and pharmacists. When a match is made and the donation is mutually accepted, the team mobilizes. Inpatient, operating room and recovery teams coordinate everything that takes place behind the scenes to ensure a smooth heart transplant. This particular transplant process began at another hospital, when Dr. Hammond recovered the donor heart and brought it back to Hartford Hospital for surgery. Dr. Ali performed the transplant which was one of three heart transplant operations that he undertook that week, highlighting the expansion of the program at Hartford Hospital. "I am often in awe of how much effort is involved in performing even a single heart transplant, the fact that this has been undertaken 500 times within the walls of Hartford Hospital is a truly remarkable achievement. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a smiling patient soon after their transplant procedure. They are so excited about the future and the opportunity to enjoy good health and an active life,” said Ali. “Currently in 2021, we have performed more heart transplant operations than any other program in New England, a testament to the exciting growth we have seen over the past few years. The transplant team is excited about helping many more patients in the future who are in need of a new heart. I have always felt that a successful heart transplant is one of the closest things to a miracle that we are fortunate to witness. It is truly a privilege to work with such a talented team of physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals and of course we are incredibly grateful to those who donate their organs and their brave families who support their wishes." For Dr. Andrew Feingold, Medical Director of the Heart Transplant Program at Hartford Hospital, all 500 transplant recipients are at the top of his mind, saying, “Performing 500 heart transplants speaks to our historical success dating back to 1984 when we performed the first successful heart transplant in Connecticut. This accomplishment represents 500 new leases on life which we all enjoy seeing longitudinally as they are forever appreciative of receiving and making the best use of their gift.” In 1984, Andrzej “Andy” Buczek of Farmington, became the first successful heart transplant recipient in Connecticut history when doctors at Hartford Hospital, led by cardiothoracic surgeon Henry B.C. Low, performed the procedure with a team of surgeons, clinical cardiologists and immunologists. At the time of his death in 2017, 33 years after the procedure, Buczek was among the top five longest-surviving heart transplant recipients in the United States. Not only has the hospital been a trailblazer for heart transplant in the region since the program’s inception in the early 1980’s, Hartford Hospital also continues to be one of the top centers in the country in terms of quality. Based on the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients data, Hartford Hospital ranks No. 1 in three-year survival in Connecticut, second-highest in the New England-New York-New Jersey region and among the highest in the nation. As of Oct. 2, 29 hearts have been transplanted at Hartford Hospital so far in 2021. Dr. Hammond sees a bright future for the program, which is enhanced by the strong team in place at the Transplant Program. “Our most immediate challenge is to figure out ways to offer transplantation to more people who would benefit from it,” he said. “The key is to optimize the recovery of organs from donors. Extending techniques in use for liver, kidney, and lung transplantation to the heart population represents one of the best avenues to achieving this. Dr. Ali has done some of the pioneering work in this field, and we are optimistic that it will enable us to serve more patients dying of advanced heart failure.