HOUSTON – More than 1,000 heart transplants have been performed by physicians at Houston Methodist Hospital since Dr. Michael E. DeBakey completed the first one at the hospital 50 years ago, according to hospital officials.
The latest recipient was Tyler Wertz, a 23-year-old who was on a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, for the past five years, officials said. Wertz and his younger brother have been on LVADs due to complications from Becker's muscular dystrophy, which is a disease that slowly weakens the arms and legs and damages the heart.
Officials said Wertz's health began to deteriorate late last year, and he was put on the transplant list.
"This has been a long journey and a long struggle for me, and I now feel great," Wertz said. "I am looking forward to seeing what life is like with this new heart."
In the past five years, Wertz has gotten engaged and had two children, and now he has his new beginning, officials said.
"I really want to become a football coach. I love the game and was never able to play because of my muscular dystrophy," Wertz said. "I also can't wait to watch my children grow up and live out their dreams. I am truly blessed."
Officials said the hospital joins an elite group of hospitals in the country that have performed more than 1,000 heart transplants.
Houston Methodist Hospital's first heart transplant in 1968 was part of the world's first multi-organ transplant that also included a lung and two kidneys from one donor to four recipients, officials said.
Dr. George P. Noon, a cardiovascular surgeon with Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, was part of DeBakey's team and has been involved in more than 600 of the 1,000 heart transplants, officials said.
"A great amount of work went into performing that first transplant, and to see us reach 1,000 heart transplants is an incredible accomplishment for Houston Methodist," Noon said. "It's a great feeling to know that we have been able to save the lives of many people over the past 50 years."
Officials said the 1,000th heart transplant was also the 50th of the year, which is a new record for Houston Methodist.
"Consistently performing heart transplants with great results is a testament to the commitment of everyone involved on the team," said Dr. A. Osama Gaber, director of Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center.
"The evolution and maturation of heart transplantation from the early stages 50 years ago to today when patients have excellent long-term outcomes is nothing short of remarkable," said Dr. Alan B. Lumsden, chief of cardiovascular surgery at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center.