When the pandemic caused hospitals in New York and elsewhere to stop performing heart transplants, donated hearts were diverted elsewhere, which led to record numbers of transplants in D.C.
“Many of those hearts … were available to us and for our patients, and we took advantage of that,” said cardiac surgeon Dr. Ezequiel Molina, the surgical director of the Heart Transplant Program at MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.
Between March and May, the Heart and Vascular Institute performed twice as many heart transplants as usual, 13, which led to a 2020 fiscal year final total of 23 transplants by June 30, Molina said.
“That’s a record high for us,” Molina said.
The decision for the institute to continue doing transplants wasn’t made lightly.
“We had very interesting discussions about this, because obviously we were taking a risk ourselves and taking a risk for our patients in some ways,” Molina said.
Protecting heart transplant patients from COVID-19 before, during and after procedures involved
telehealth, home visits by technicians and other strategies.
“You can only imagine how many different specialties and providers are part of our team, so we feel very proud of that,” Molina said.
Molina said protection protocols were effective — none of the transplant patients was infected by the coronavirus.
“LVAD transplants are lifesaving procedures that allow our patients to live longer, to live better in better condition, to spend more Thanksgivings more Christmases with their families, more birthdays — so, it’s definitely an extremely rewarding field to have the privilege of helping these patients,” Molina said.
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