St. Thomas Health's once defunct heart transplant program surges - WSMV News 4

St. Thomas Health's once defunct heart transplant program surges back

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Courtesy: Saint Thomas Health Courtesy: Saint Thomas Health
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A Nashville man has a second lease on life after receiving a heart transplant last year.

At 42 years old, Jim Talbot had already survived stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma roughly eight years prior to collapsing and suffering a massive heart attack in early 2016.

“It (was) sort of, being in the right place at the right time,” Talbot said.

Talbot does not remember much about the day he suffered a massive heart attack.

What started out as flu-like symptoms grew worse. He eventually had to go to the hospital.

“I was about to go home, and then I ended up coding that night and they had to bring me back,” Talbot said. “They didn't know if I would ever come out of the coma, if I would have brain damage or what. They had to tell my family the worst.”

After 45 minutes of CPR and working to resuscitate him, Talbot came through with no brain or organ damage. But he would need a new heart.

Dr. Ashok Babu performed Talbot’s transplant.

“Transplants had been absent from this hospital for five years, and there was a great need for it to come back to this hospital,” Babu said.

Saint Thomas Health is home to Tennessee’s first heart transplant program, which opened in 1985. The program has performed more than 400 transplants since its inception.

It had to shut down due to turnover among surgeons.

“Around 2010, 2011, they lost three of their main surgeons over a one-and-a-half year period,” Babu said. “It was unsustainable.”

After a five-year hiatus to build a more comprehensive program and add additional services, it re-launched in May 2016.

Since then, it has performed 37 transplants.

“We ended up doing in the mid-20s in the first 12 months,” Babu said.

Talbot was the first of those recipients.

Now, with a new heart and a new chance at life, Talbot encourages others to consider organ donation.

“This person, this donor, gave their life for you,” he said. “Make every day worthwhile.”

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