HOUSTON -- One day after her heart was removed, repaired and then reimplanted during a nearly seven-hour operation, Joanne Minnich was recovering satisfactorily.
The 57-year-old Mahopac, N.Y., woman was in good condition Wednesday morning in the intensive care unit of Methodist DeBakey Heart Center.
"She is in good spirits, drinking fluids, alert and awake," hospital spokeswoman Emma Chambers said.
Her heart rested in a bowl Tuesday while a team of cardiac surgeons cut out three rapidly growing tumors. Doctors used tissue from a cow's heart to repair the damaged organ.
Only one other patient has survived the rare procedure called an autotransplant.
"The prognosis is good but guarded," lead surgeon Michael Reardon said during a news conference following the operation. "She's doing well but it's very early. I feel very good we got (the tumors) all out."
The malignant growths were on the wall of her heart's left atrium, restricting blood flow. Doctors said they could have killed Minnich in as little as two weeks if left unchecked.
Minnich's diseased heart was out of her body for about 45 minutes, during which time a heart-lung machine took over.
"They have saved my wife," said her husband, William Minnich. "I'm grateful. All the after effects (of a heart transplant) just didn't make sense. This procedure made sense."
Reardon performed the procedure, called an autotransplant, successfully in 1999. Two other patients died, in 1983 and 1998. Reardon said he developed the procedure with famed cardiac surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley in 1983.
Before the surgery, Minnich said the operation frightened her but was the only chance she had at life. "I don't have time to wait for a heart transplant," said the business manager and mother of three grown children.
Minnich had an operation to remove a tumor in April, but the malignancy recurred. A few weeks ago, she was short of breath and by Sunday had to sit up to breathe, Reardon said.
On the Net:
DeBakey Heart Center: http://www.methodisthealth.com/debakey/hrtcntr.htm
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