TAMPA, Fla. — Seventy-two-year-old Dennis Prater and his wife, Hope, volunteer regularly at Tampa General Hospital (TGH).
What You Need To Know
- New donor transplant technology is helping cut wait time
- Improved technology for organ transplant and how the organ is transported are helping transform the program at Tampa General Hospital
- More innovative technology, the SherpaPak, a high-tech cooler of sorts, provides an advanced, sterile way to preserve the organ
“Got an amazing gift, a new heart, so it feels like family here,” said Dennis.
That new heart was transplanted at TGH five years ago.
“There’s always a little nervousness,” said Dennis.
Dennis suffered his first heart attack at 42. After three pacemakers, the father of three suffered congestive heart failure in 2018, which meant he would need a heart transplant.
“It was a bit scary because you want to make sure that you get it in time,” said Hope. “So you’re just kind of waiting, waiting, waiting.”
Waiting is exactly what TGH Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiologist Dr. Benjamin Mackie wants less of for his patients.
“The longer patients wait on the transplant list, the higher the likelihood is that they get too sick to transplant at all, or that they have a higher risk of doing poorly after transplant because they’re in a state of progressive decline with their heart disease,” said Mackie.
Improved technology for organ transplant and how the organ is transported are helping transform the program.
“We’ve expanded our donor pool to include donation after circulatory death donors. Traditionally, donors are brain-dead donors,” said Mackie.
“We put it on the TransMedics machine, which then pumps blood and other nutritional solutions to the heart, and the heart actually continues to beat and is warm the entire time,” said Mackie of the TransMedics Organ Care System.
More innovative technology, the SherpaPak, a high-tech cooler of sorts, provides an advanced, sterile way to preserve the organ.
“This allows us to suspend the heart in a cold solution so that there’s no risk of mechanical injury to the organ, and additionally we can thermally regulate that organ and actually monitor the temperature,” explained Mackie.
New technologies, Mackie says, reducing risk of injury to the organ and increasing the distance it can travel, helping reduce wait times for patients.
“The faster we can transplant them, the more likely they are to do well with those therapies and the more lives we’re able to save,” said Mackie.
Saving patient’s lives, like Dennis’.
“The gift I got was life,” he said.
Now, he shares that gift giving back. From making rounds as a volunteer, distributing the newsletter, to advocating for patients in Tallahassee and volunteering with the pet therapy program, the Praters know what it’s like to wait, so they’re not waiting to show their gratitude.
“I was at the end of my life and they gave me this gift. Now I have many more years,” said Dennis.
A second chance, said Dennis, one he will spend with his second family paying it forward.