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WVU Medicine performs the state’s first heart transplant

The first heart transplant procedure in West Virginia was successfully performed Saturday at the West Virginia University Heart and Vascular Institute on a 61-year-old man with heart failure.

Michael Shullo, Pharm. D., associate vice president of transplant services for WVU Medicine and leader of the WVU Medicine Transplant Alliance, said Tuesday that the patient, Robert Parsons of Chesapeake, Ohio, was stable and taken off the ventilator four hours after the six-hour transplant was completed.

“For us, this has been a goal of WVU Medicine for quite some time,” said Shullo, who came to WVU Medicine from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he was co-director of advanced heart failure for UPMC’s Heart and Vascular Program.

WVU Medicine announced plans to offer transplants at a September 2018 news conference. At the time of the announcement, there were 22 West Virginia residents on the waiting list for a heart transplant. Previously, those same people would have to go to Pittsburgh or Cleveland to receive hearts.

“This heart transplant was the first ever in West Virginia’s 156-year history, and it marked a pivotal moment of the institute as it continues to establish itself as one of the premier heart and vascular programs in the United States,” said Albert Wright, president and CEO of the West Virginia University Health System, in a statement. “We are proud of the team of dedicated professionals who made this surgery a success and we are honored to bring this critical service to the people of West Virginia and all we serve.”

Shullo anticipates the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute to perform 15 to 20 transplants each year going forward.

“Some of the busiest (heart transplant) medical centers do 100 a year,” said Shullo, declining to provide specifics on the donor heart.

“It was a great heart,” he said. “People no longer have to leave the state.”

Parsons was able to visit with his siblings from Huntington hours after the procedure’s completion. Shullo said it is standard for heart recipients to remain hospitalized two weeks after a transplant.

Parsons’ surgery was performed by Vinay Badhwar, a transplant surgeon and executive chair of the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute and Muhammad Salman, transplant surgeon and surgical director of Advanced Heart Failure.

Other transplant team members included Chris Cook, M.D.; heart failure cardiologists Christopher Bianco, D.O.; George Sokos, D.O., Marco Caccamo, D.O.; anesthesiologists Matthew Ellison, M.D., and John Bozek, M.D.; surgical assistants; transplant coordinators; nurses; pharmacists; social workers; dietitians; and perfusionists, WVU Medicine said.

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