Medical breakthrough: New technology helps save more lives by preserving donated hearts longer

Darla Miles Image
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
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For the first time, a local hospital in Westchester County used the technology to save the life of a 73-year-old man.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, New York (WABC) -- A medical breakthrough is offering hope to victims in need of a heart transplant: Doctor are now able to preserve donated hearts longer, which means saving more lives.

The technology is called Heart in a Box. It restarts a heart and keeps it alive until it can be transplanted.

For the first time, a local hospital in Westchester County used the technology to save the life of a 73-year-old man.

"I'm not that old, I am senior citizen but not that old, so I wanted to live," Peter Myer said.

Myer has been living it up his whole life and his age of 73 didn't stop him. But two heart attacks almost did.

"It had reached a point where my heart couldn't function anymore, I'd run out of options," he said.

The only real option was considered just a punchline on "Grey's Anatomy" 10 years ago.

But the Heart in a Box is a real thing. It's still in the clinical trial stage and Westchester Medical Center is one of the participating hospitals.

"I went to a donor hospital and I retrieved the organs, retrieved the heart and then I came back with a jet," said Dr. Masashi Kai, Dir. of Heart Transplantation.

The organ care system was designed by the medical device company Transmedics.

The technology has two game-changing benefits: viable organs can be removed from a patient who no longer exhibits signs of brain activity and unlike the first successful transplant in 1987, the heart doesn't have to be transported on ice because it never stops beating.

"We were actually able to get Mr. Myer a heart transplant in only one week, where as normally it could have been weeks to months," said cardiologist Dr. Stephan Pan.

In New York there are 351 people waiting for a heart transplant. In New Jersey there are 37 and in Connecticut there are 61. For them, the Heart in a Box could make a life-changing difference like it has with Myer.

"There are many of us my age bracket that are in otherwise good health and we'd like to live a little longer," Myer said.

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