Milwaukee hospital has surge of heart transplants in pandemic

While coronavirus cases are pushing area hospitals to their limit, one Milwaukee hospital is also seeing a surprising surge in heart transplants. Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus in Wisconsin”I had a virus and it attacked my heart,” heart transplant recipient Bob Garacci said. In 2016, Garacci got the news that he would […]

While coronavirus cases are pushing area hospitals to their limit, one Milwaukee hospital is also seeing a surprising surge in heart transplants. Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus in Wisconsin”I had a virus and it attacked my heart,” heart transplant recipient Bob Garacci said. In 2016, Garacci got the news that he would eventually need a heart transplant. The 58-year-old Greenfield machinist waited four years.”I was on the heart list and that came available in June, June 3 to be exact,” Garacci said. “I was a little concerned if they were able to do the surgery.”It was the same concern the heart transplant team at Aurora St. Luke’s had just a few months earlier.”When the pandemic started in March, we were all stepping back to decide what we were going to do,” said Dr. John Crouch, director of surgery at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. That’s when the team put together an aggressive, multi-tiered plan to keep transplant surgeries going, even as the hospital prepared for a possible surge in COVID-19 patients. New procedures were put in place to keep heart recipients safe.”We couldn’t allow patients’ families to be there with them, and that was a big, big deal. Going through a big procedure like this without having your loved next to you is obviously a very difficult step,” transplant surgeon Dr. Nasir Sulemanjee said. Despite the pandemic, the number of heart transplants at St Luke’s soared at a record pace, 39 through the end of August compared with 23 last year.All while, some other hospitals paused their transplant programs, which had an unexpected impact Aurora St. Luke’s.”Some of the smaller programs closed for acute transplants, so, in fact, that increased the pool of patients,” Crouch said.There was an increase in patients in a program that had already committed to doing more heart transplants before COVID hit. That’s when the pandemic upped the transplant numbers again, but this time, due to an unfortunate reason. “I think that having COVID, the pandemic basically allowed us to get access to a lot more donors,” Sulemanjee said. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Officer reports a 25% increase in deaths because of COVID-19 and other causes — homicides, suicides and overdoses in particular — and that’s led to more availability of donor organs.”Yeah, you do have to reflect on that, that somebody had to pass away for you to get an organ,” Garacci said. Through that record number of transplants, amid a global pandemic, Bob’s surgery was a success. Leaving him with a more safety-conscious, but enthusiastic outlook on the future.”I’m cautious about what I do, and I go out and live my life,” Garacci said. Aurora St. Luke’s has performed 996 heart transplants since the transplant program began at the hospital.Scams, Rip-offs, Wrongdoing, Corruption: Submit Your Tip & We’ll Take Action.Sign up for coronavirus email alerts from WISNGet breaking news alerts with the WISN 12 app.Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

While coronavirus cases are pushing area hospitals to their limit, one Milwaukee hospital is also seeing a surprising surge in heart transplants.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus in Wisconsin

“I had a virus and it attacked my heart,” heart transplant recipient Bob Garacci said.

In 2016, Garacci got the news that he would eventually need a heart transplant.

The 58-year-old Greenfield machinist waited four years.

“I was on the heart list and that came available in June, June 3 to be exact,” Garacci said. “I was a little concerned if they were able to do the surgery.”

It was the same concern the heart transplant team at Aurora St. Luke’s had just a few months earlier.

“When the pandemic started in March, we were all stepping back to decide what we were going to do,” said Dr. John Crouch, director of surgery at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center.

That’s when the team put together an aggressive, multi-tiered plan to keep transplant surgeries going, even as the hospital prepared for a possible surge in COVID-19 patients.

New procedures were put in place to keep heart recipients safe.

“We couldn’t allow patients’ families to be there with them, and that was a big, big deal. Going through a big procedure like this without having your loved next to you is obviously a very difficult step,” transplant surgeon Dr. Nasir Sulemanjee said.

Despite the pandemic, the number of heart transplants at St Luke’s soared at a record pace, 39 through the end of August compared with 23 last year.

All while, some other hospitals paused their transplant programs, which had an unexpected impact Aurora St. Luke’s.

“Some of the smaller programs closed for acute transplants, so, in fact, that increased the pool of patients,” Crouch said.

There was an increase in patients in a program that had already committed to doing more heart transplants before COVID hit.

That’s when the pandemic upped the transplant numbers again, but this time, due to an unfortunate reason.

“I think that having COVID, the pandemic basically allowed us to get access to a lot more donors,” Sulemanjee said.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Officer reports a 25% increase in deaths because of COVID-19 and other causes — homicides, suicides and overdoses in particular — and that’s led to more availability of donor organs.

“Yeah, you do have to reflect on that, that somebody had to pass away for you to get an organ,” Garacci said.

Through that record number of transplants, amid a global pandemic, Bob’s surgery was a success.

Leaving him with a more safety-conscious, but enthusiastic outlook on the future.

“I’m cautious about what I do, and I go out and live my life,” Garacci said.

Aurora St. Luke’s has performed 996 heart transplants since the transplant program began at the hospital.

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