As turkeys brined the Chicago area early Thursday, before the ovens preheated, transplant doctors at the University of Medicine of Chicago were just starting to work in the operating room.
Seventeen hours and back-to-back heart transplants later, two families had a lot more to thank – and the South Side Hospital had set a new record for Illinois nursing homes.
Doctors at UCicago Medicine have now performed 55 heart transplants so far this year, and for the healthcare workers who performed the life-saving procedures, it was worth showing up late to their own Thanksgiving gatherings.
“Everyone on the team was thankful that they were able to spend this time saving a life,” said Dr. Sean Pinney, who heads the institution’s heart failure program. “We love spending time with our families, but it is truly an honor and a privilege to give time to save and extend the lives of other families. “
Pinney said he expects UChicago to perform the top 60 heart transplants by the end of the year, a significant jump from Illinois’ previous record of 54, set in 2018 at Northwestern Medicine. .
While the large hospital systems on the east and west coasts perform 90 or more heart transplants each year, UChicago has performed an average of around 40 in recent years.
Pinney, who treats patients before and after complex surgeries, said it’s because more patients and outpatient health centers trust UChicago, which has ranked number one nationally in terms of survival rate. It is also one of the only hospitals in the country to perform triple organ transplants, which cover the heart, liver and kidneys in one extremely difficult stroke.
But regular heart transplants like the two performed on Thursday still require careful orchestration of logistics and medical expertise.
The process begins with pre-transplant coordinators who put patients on the waiting list for a new heart, followed by donation specialists who assess matches from potential donors – and donor teams who often cross the country in full night to secure the organ.
And that’s all before the surgery which takes up to eight hours, followed by months of follow-up care.
“It’s the ultimate team sport,” said Pinney, who added that the biggest contribution is made by families who decide to donate the organs of their loved ones.
“We celebrate the fact that we are able to save patients and give them back happy and healthy lives with their family and friends, but it is all due to the generosity of donor families. We recognize that they are the ones who give the ultimate gift in the most difficult times of their lives, ”he said. “We cannot thank them enough.