MedStar Washington Hospital Center

Transplant Recipient Beats Odds, Celebrates 32 Years With New Heart

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A man is celebrating 32 years of life after having a heart transplant — beating the typical post-transplant life expectancy by decades.

“I’ve had a complete life,” Tom Cook said. “A complete second chance at life. It still goes on and hopefully for a longtime more.”

In 1989, a congenital heart condition called Marfan syndrome hospitalized Cook at just 25 years old. His only chance of survival was a heart transplant.

A fatal motorcycle accident made a heart available, but it was on its way to someone else, when, Cook says, a miracle happened. The heart was a perfect match for him.

“I was literally on the heart-lung bypass machine with no hope for survival at all when this beautiful heart that was scheduled to go somewhere else was turned around in the middle of this trip and given to me to last all these years,” he said.

Cook is the longest living heart transplant patient from the Heart and Vascular Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

On average, a transplanted heart lasts 13-and-a-half years.

“It is a gift of life, right, because it is really a matter of life and death for the recipient who is actually going to get that heart,” said Dr. Samer Najjar, director of the Advanced Heart Failure Program at MedStar.

“With every organ donor, there’s multiple different organs that can be donated,” Najjar said. “It’s not just the heart or just the lungs. There’s several different organs, so there’s multiple different people who could benefit from it, including in our situation with the heart transplant recipients.”

Cook said he will be forever grateful to his organ donor. When he passes away, Cook is donating his entire body to science in the hope of helping future recipients.

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