Kevin Daignault, 55, says his wife, Susan, just happened to notice her smartphone light up in the early morning hours of Dec. 29, 2017, having somehow missed dozens of other urgent calls from a small office on Cox 6 at the MGH.

Karen Turvey, CNP, of Transplant Surgery, was repeatedly dialing the couple with the news that a donor heart had become available – and Daignault was first in line to receive it.

“We packed a bag and got on the road,” says Daignault. He and Susan immediately set out on the more than five-hour drive to the MGH from northern Vermont. “Six hours later it felt surreal to be at the hospital being prepared for transplant surgery.”

It was days later – while in recovery – that Daignault learned he was the 500th patient to receive a heart transplant at the MGH, which began its heart transplant program in 1985.

“Kevin was also the 40th transplant we performed in 2017, which is almost double the number we achieved for patients two years ago,” says David D’Alessandro, MD, surgical director of MGH Heart Transplantation and a member of Daignault’s care team.

Kerry Gaj, NP, of Transplant Surgery, credits this increase to the strong, dedicated leadership of both D’Alessandro and Greg Lewis, MD, medical director for Heart Transplantation, as well as the “close coordination the program enjoys with other experts in heart failure.”

One of those experts is Johannes Steiner, MD, a cardiologist and heart failure specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Steiner trained at the MGH and remains on staff with the MGH Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Program. “When I first met Kevin in late 2016, he was debilitated by his end-stage heart failure,” says Steiner. “We soon realized medical management would not suffice, and heart transplantation was his only viable option.”

With a referral from Steiner, Daignault underwent surgery at the MGH in October to receive a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a mechanical heart pump. He then was placed on the transplant list as Status Code 1A, a high priority for transplant based on medical needs. Daignault’s heart was transplanted less than three months after the LVAD placement, just in time for the new year.

“It really feels like a new lease on life,” says Daignault. “I feel like I’m starting life all over again.”

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