MEDICAL MIRACLES: Woman donates her heart, and then actually hears it BEATING in recipient's chest!
Stanford Medicine surgeons performed an unusual transplantation in which one woman received a heart-lung transplant, while her existing heart was given to another patient.
Linda Karr's heart was deteriorating due to a genetic condition. Such was her condition that she was unable to walk down a hallway without stopping to catch her breath. Doctors informed her that she needed to undergo a heart transplant.
Karr, 55, was diagnosed with Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD) over 20 years ago.
For over 30 months, she sat waiting for a match until Stanford University Hospital in California gave her a call and informed her of a relatively unusual alternative they had been working on.
In a conversation with Stanford News, she revealed that doctors told her she needed a new heart after she complained of having trouble while simply walking her dog or walking down a hallway.
On the other hand, at the same time, another patient named Tammy Griffin was struggling to find a match for a lung transplant. Doctors felt that her heart was still healthy.
Hospital authorities then asked Karr if she would be interested in a "domino procedure," according to which, Griffin would get the heart and lungs from a deceased donor and her healthy heart would be transplanted to Karr's body.
In a fascinating turn of events, Griffin met Karr just a month after the procedure, and the former heard her old heartbeat inside Karr's chest.
Griffin, who hails from Happy Valley, Oregon, suffered from a genetic disease called cystic fibrosis, which causes mucus to clog the airways of lungs.
The disease made it difficult for the 53-year-old to breathe while performing day to day tasks such as taking a shower. Doctors revealed she had one overexpanded lung while the other was shrunken, reported Daily Mail.
Griffin's lung capacity slowly started to deteriorate, up to a point where she needed oxygen support all the time. Authorities told her she desperately needed a new pair of lungs.
A cardiothoracic surgeon at Stanford Health Care, Dr. Joseph Woo, told Stanford Medicine News that Griffin's heart was functioning well but "had been pushed out of place." He would later oversee the transplant procedure.
"Her heart was an innocent bystander pushed out of its normal position in the middle of the lungs as her right lung shrank and the left one expanded," he said.
Due to this condition, Griffin was an eligible candidate for the proposed heart-lung transplant.
Karr was enlisted on the waiting list for over 30 months from September 2013 to January 2016 as she wasn't considered a high-priority candidate due to her age.
She finally agreed to the domino procedure on January 30 when doctors called her and explained the situation about Griffin and her. A few hours later, Karr was admitted to Stanford Hospital.
The two women met for the first time on March 17, six weeks after the procedure. Griffin placed her ears on Karr's chest as she listened to her old heartbeat inside.
"It's pretty weird that I donated my heart and I'm still alive. You never hear that" Griffin told Deseret News.
"I got to save someone's life, and someone saved my life. And then I got to meet her. It's weird and exciting to go through all that together."
Meanwhile, Karr said they were fortunate as their blood type was an exact match and thus could go ahead with the procedure.
"I just felt fortunate that the situation sort of miraculously transpired with three people's lives all aligning at the same time," she said.