Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm
St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee has become one of the nation’s leaders in heart transplant surgery.
St. Luke’s performed 30 heart transplant surgeries in 2003. In 2002, the hospital performed 36 heart transplant surgeries, more than any other hospital in the state and more than all but 11 hospitals in the U.S.
According to St. Luke’s officials, the hospital has the best one-year survival rate of the nation’s top heart transplant hospitals. One year is a critical milestone for organ transplant patients, as it typically indicates the body will not reject the organ.
Dr. Joan Heimler, manager of organ procurement at St. Luke’s, attributes the hospital’s high one-year survival rate for organ recipients to the expertise of the transplant surgeons and the proper use of drug therapy.
However, more organ donors are needed, Heimler said. At any one time, there are about 84,000 Americans on the waiting list for organ donations. Of those, about 3,500 are waiting for heart transplants.
Each year, only about 15,000 to 20,000 people die who are potential organ donors, Heimler said. Those individuals often are automobile accident victims who have suffered severe brain injuries, but their organs remain intact.
Many families coping with the shock of the sudden death of a loved one struggle when asked if their deceased relative’s organs can be donated to someone else, Heimler said. People who want to be organ donors should tell their families, she said.
"It’s as simple as signing your driver’s license and talking to your families," Heimler said. "Transplantation is really limited to the number of organs available. (With more organ donors) we could transplant more organs and save more lives."
April 30. 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee