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Year in review: 2019 a year of firsts for WVU Medicine

The last 12 months have been a year of firsts for WVU Medicine.

In early November, WVU Medicine doctors performed the first heart transplant in West Virginia, implanting a new heart into the chest of 61-year-old Robert Parsons of Chesapeake, Ohio.

A second transplant procedure on a different patient was also performed in November.
WVU Medicine officials have said they expect to perform 15 to 20 transplants each year going forward, giving people the option of staying in the state rather than going to Pittsburgh or Cleveland.

WVU Medicine is also gearing up to transplant kidneys, procedures that are expected to begin in January. Potential recipients are being screened.

In late October, WVU Medicine said it received approval from the United Network for Organ Sharing — the private nonprofit scientific and educational organization that administers the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network in the U.S. — to perform kidney transplants. UNOS approved WVU Medicine for heart transplants in September.

Like heart transplants, transplanting kidneys is to keep residents in state and to encourage them to seek medical care. West Virginia also has one of the highest rates of hypertension and diabetes in the country, two of the leading causes of renal failure.

The Charleston Area Medical Center has been performing kidney transplants since the late 1980s.

Fighting opioid addiction
November saw another first for WVU Medicine. This time it was a clinical trial when a small device was successfully implanted in the brain of a Greene County, Pa., man who has struggled with opioid and benzodiazepine abuse for more than a decade with multiple overdoses and relapses.

This marked the first time in the U.S. that brain stimulation — DBS — was used to fight opioid addiction, WVU officials said.

Opioids and West Virginia are unfortunately linked. In a June 2019 analysis of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s database that tracked shipments of pain pills from 2006 to 2013, the Washington Post reported more than 853 million pain pills were shipped to West Virginia.

The Post reported the states that received the highest concentrations of pills per person per year during that time period were: West Virginia with 66.5, Kentucky with 63.3, South Carolina with 58, and Tennessee with 57.7 and Nevada with 54.7. West Virginia also had the highest opioid death rate from 2006 through 2012.

The brain stimulation procedure performed by neurosurgeon Ali Rezai, executive chair of the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, involved implanting a Medtronic DBS device in the addiction and reward center of the brain through a coin-sized hole cut into the skull. A stimulator with a battery and four wires was planted near the patient’s collar bone.

The RNI clinical trial, funded through a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, will involve three additional people, all of whom suffer from opioid addiction.

WVU builds
Much of the construction equipment seen around Morgantown these days is there for WVU.

Work is continuing on the $150 million, 150-bed WVU Medicine Children’s hospital, which is geared solely to children and new mothers. When it opens in June 2021, it will be the first such hospital for the state of West Virginia.

The tower, which will be connected to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital by two walkways will have its own emergency department with a separate entrance. It will also have its own radiology department, 20-bed pediatric ICU, 50-bed neonatal ICU, operating rooms. endoscopy facilities, and a 30-bed obstetrical unit with potential for expansion. It will also be the only hospital in the state with a pediatric cardiac surgery program, as well as the only epilepsy monitoring unit for children.

The tower will also have its own gift shop, chapel and cafeteria, and a school intervention program. A separate pharmacy will be on the top floor as well.

Work is also underway on the $100 million Reynolds Hall, the new 180,000-square-foot home of the John Chambers College and Business Economics, on the site of the former Stansbury Hall. The building is slated for completion in mid-2022.

2 hospitality venues and a festival
Rockville, Md.-based Ail Hospitality LLC officially took over ownership of Lakeview Golf Resort on Dec. 12, nearly three months after winning an online auction for the resort, the two golf courses, time shares and other amenities.

Ail had the successful bid of $2.25 million.

The property itself will keep its traditional look, but the guest rooms will be spruced up with new bedding and carpets. The property may eventually align with a national hotel chain.

“It was an opportunity for us, not just a simple investment,” Sameer Ailawadi, owner of Ail Hospitality told The Dominion Post.

Ailawadi, who owns eight hotel properties in Maryland, Pennsylvania and suburban Washington, D.C., said there are no plans to change the name of the property, which includes the 187-room hotel. He does, however, plan to keep the hotel open year-round.

The future of Hotel Morgan is still shrouded in mystery. What is known is all of the inventory in the 78-room hotel was sold.

The downtown hotel was closed in the fall and is expected to remain closed until the end of 2020. It was last renovated in 1999 by the Brant family, which paid $1.35 million for the venue two years earlier.

MountainFest, the motorcycle rally held near Morgantown for the last 15 years, was postponed for 2020 so organizers can put together a blueprint to ensure a viable event going forward.

Susan Riddle, president and CEO of the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors Bureau, said one of the reasons MountainFest will not occur in 2020 is the cost of musical entertainment. The most recent event featured Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick and the Charlie Daniels Band.

The three-day rally, held around Labor Day weekend at Mylan Park, included outdoor concerts as well as motorcycle-themed entertainment, and attracted as many as 50,000 people each year. Attendance this year was slightly down from previous years, but did not factor into the decision to cancel the event for this year, Riddle said.

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