Maimonides Medical Center this week held its 19th Annual Cardiac Symposium, gathering cardiologists and surgeons together to discuss recent developments in the field.
The subjects included transcatheter valves, endovascular aortic arch aneurysm repair, and the challenges of the modern era of heart transplantation.
The medical facility also honored the 50th Anniversary of the first heart transplant in the United States, performed by Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz on December 6, 1967 at Maimonides Medical Center.
Maimonides officials provided Dr. Kantrowitz’s daughter, Dr. Niki Kantrowitz, with a plaque memorializing the historic success.
“It’s so critical in being able to move forward, to understand what’s been done, and how things were accomplished and the struggles and the triumphs and the failures,” said Kantrowitz, who is a cardiologist herself. “And all of that has to go into the mix of thinking about how to solve problems going forward.”
Also at the event was Charles LaRosa, 68, who received a heart transplant on April 11, 2015 , and during the same month in the previous year, had undergone surgery for a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) that required him to use batteries in the day and plug into a source of electricity at night.
LaRosa went through a three-month period of interviewing to get on the list of heart recipients. And he waited with his family for good news. He had been sick since the age of 49.
“Two thousand fourteen is when I found out that I had six months to live. So what I did is, I cried,” said Charles, who lives with his wife, Fran in Gravesend. “And then I met these guys, the LVAD team. And they put me on the path to the gift of life, which was my heart transplant.”
Fran and Charles both credit the LVAD team at Maimonides for ensuring his ability to receive the heart, and say that the team of physicians, surgeons and nurses have become family to them.
“[An LVAD physician] said ‘Fran, stop crying, you will always be part of our family, and we will see you,’” said Fran, adding that before the surgeries, her husband was experiencing congestive heart failure almost every month. “And the truth of the matter is, he comes to all the meetings, every month. They are our family.”
Charles is one of roughly 2,000 patients who undergo heart transplant surgery each year in the United States.
Charles and Fran have seven grandchildren, two of whom are twins who just turned one-month. Charles still takes 35 pills a day, 18 different medications, to ensure that his body and new heart stay healthy, though he says he remembers the past few years as “like a bad day.” He says it’s important for him to recognize Dr. Kantrowitz’s 50-year-old achievement.
“Because I’m still here. If they didn’t do this fifty years ago, I wouldn’t be here.”