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In This Issue:
The very first organ transplant in medical history
Two brothers, six months, one dreaded familial disease and two hearts. Perhaps the fates could have been more cruel, but in 2001, for brothers Wayne and Cliff Tyler, that possibility did not seem apparent. Each was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a chronic genetic disease that impacts members of the same family, and the future seemed clouded with anxiety.
As time passed, the brothers’ health declined. Their last hope for recovery rested with their inclusion on a long list of heart transplant candidates where potential recipients far outnumbered the amount of available organs. The chances of one brother receiving a new heart seemed distant. The odds in favor of both receiving hearts seemed astronomical.
“It was a waiting game of the worst kind,” said Wayne Tyler. “Perhaps one of us would receive a new heart but two seemed like too much to expect.”
But, hope for a new, healthier life for both brothers seemed destined. On November 1, 2001, the family received a call from G. H. Mudge, MD, the Tylers’ cardiologist, who said a match was available. Wayne would soon receive a new heart.
With Wayne Tyler’s operation a success, the family was torn. Thankful for the wonderful gift from an unknown donor, their thoughts and prayers turned to Wayne’s brother Cliff, who desperately needed the same fortune.
Several long months passed and as Wayne’s health improved, Cliff’s declined. “My heart had control of my life,” said Cliff. “It would beat really fast and I would be short of breath, weak, no energy.”
He was admitted to the hospital and placed on a Left Ventricular Assist Device, which pumped his heart for him. Then, nearly six months to the day after Wayne’s surgery, the family received another call indicating another match had been made. On May 2, Cliff Tyler received his heart, under the surgical direction of the same surgeon who performed his brother’s surgery-Gregory Couper, MD.
“I feel almost as good as I did before this disease made itself known in 1992,” said Cliff.
Ironically, one of BWH’s predecessor hospitals, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, became internationally recognized in 1954 when two other brothers were involved in the very first organ transplant in medical history. Nearly 50 years ago, Joseph Murray, MD, transplanted a kidney from Ronald Herrick to his twin brother Richard Herrick, a feat that later secured Murray a Nobel Prize in Medicine.
At the time, the Murray transplant was acclaimed as opening up “an entirely new horizon for medical science.” At a recent visit to Mudge’s office for the standard follow-up care, both brothers marveled at the legacy of transplantation at BWH, thankful to be able to look forward to many more horizons of their own in their future.