Cheney Transplant No Longer Uncommon


It was no secret that former Vice President Dick Cheney has had longstanding, serious heart problems. He went public about a year ago with news that a left ventricular heart assist device (VAD) had been implanted in his chest.

But the public and transplant world were surprised to find that Cheney had undergone a heart transplant last week.

One of the most surprising things about the procedure is that Cheney, age 71, is older than most transplant recipients. However, it is not as uncommon as one might think for someone in their 70s to be a recipient. In fact at Barnes-Jewish, our physicians have transplanted someone as old as 84.

As baby boomers age, it’s no longer rare for someone above age 70 to receive a transplant, says cardiologist Greg Ewald, MD, medical director for heart transplant at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. And, it’s not uncommon for these patients to do very well after transplant.

Transplant experts say that age, in and of itself, is just one factor that goes into determining who is a good candidate for transplant. Overall health, physical conditioning and life expectency are also considerations.

However, cardiothoracic surgeon Scott Silvestry, MD, surgical director of heart transplant at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, did say in a story that aired on National Public Radio (NPR) this morning, that older patients were statistically more likely to die in the weeks after surgery.

Dr. Silvestry also said that the number of previous heart surgeries a patient has had can make a transplant more difficult to perform.

For more information about how medical advances have allowed more older patients to become heart transplant candidates, listen to this podcast with Dr. Silvestry.

-Kathy Holleman

New Videos Share Story of Barnes-Jewish Heart Transplant Recipient

Clarke and Arlene Thomas talk for an American Heart Associayion

Clarke and Arlene Thomas talk for an American Heart Association video about her 2010 heart transplant.

What’s it like for a pilot to not only deliver a donated heart to the hospital … but a donated heart that saves your boss’ life as well?

That’s the story of Arlene Thomas, who in July of 2010 received a donor heart courtesy of a pilot from the company she owns, Fostaire Helicopters of St. Louis.

As part of Go Red for Women, the America Heart Association of Greater St. Louis produced three videos to share Arlene’s story and we share them below.

Over the next couple of months, we at Barnes-Jewish are encouraging many to participate in the Heart Association’s annual Heart Walk May 19 in downtown St. Louis. The annual event kicks off at Busch Stadium and goes through the city. Heart disease touches so many of us, and Arlene’s story is a great way to show how it can be overcome. Research dollars from events like the Heart Walk can help make stories like Arlene’s a positive one. For more about the event, click here.

For more about Arlene, watch these videos:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

-Jason Merrill

31 Days of Health – Tips #1 & #2


Happy New Year, everyone!

One of the first things I did yesterday was check my horoscope. It’s a fun thing to do, and I don’t take it too seriously – I cherry-pick the predictions that are positive and run with those.

One of those positive predictions was related to fitness. It pretty much mapped out my entire year – how long it would take for me to ramp up on a particular goal, when it would peak, and how wonderful I would feel if I challenged myself.

It got me thinking about a series I did on here about a year ago, called “31 Days of Healing.” We provided health tips throughout the month of January to help you get and stay on track with your resolutions. It was great fun to do, and many of you read the posts and even commented on some.

So I’m resurrecting the series, and it will follow the same path – tips on how to improve your health when it comes to prevention, fitness, nutrition and overall well-being!

Since yesterday was a holiday, this first post will include two health tips, which hopefully you’ll find to be very timely as they revolve around new starts:

Tip #1 – Sticking to you New Year’s Resolutions

This is a difficult one, but there are some things you can do to make it happen:

  • Lists – keep a list of your resolutions in a place where you’ll see them everyday. Tape them to the refrigerator, on your desk at work, or even to the dashboard of your car. It makes it difficult to cheat when your resolutions are starring back at you everywhere you turn!
  • Milestones – if you have a larger goal, like running a 5k, mark on your calendar when you’d like to be running a mile, and then two miles, and so forth. Aiming for and hitting these smaller goals will help you to reach your larger goals in no time!
  • Inspiration – if you’re working on your fitness or nutrition, start a scrapbook of photos that will inspire you to keep going. Years ago, my roommate and I pinned photos from fitness magazines of what we aspired to do in the new year, and we both competed in and finished our first triathlons that year.
  • Reward – once you hit your goal, or even your milestones, make sure you reward yourself. If you’re reaching for a nutritional goal, reward yourself with a few bites of food that’s not on you list. If you’re aiming for a fitness goal, reward yourself with an hour-long massage after the event.

Incorporating any or all of these tips into your quest for sticking to your resolutions will make the process more enjoyable!

Tip #2 – Start today and make a new ending

This is very much in the spirit of kicking off the new year on the right foot. Many of my friends on Facebook were passing around a link last week, and I found it to be inspirational. The article’s title, 30 Things To Stop Doing To Yourself, was eye-catching, and once I started reading it I couldn’t stop. It’s a short list of life-lessons on how to stop letting things and people hold you back so that you can have your best life. A few of my favorites on the list are:

1. Stop trying to be someone you’re not – it’s a very freeing concept, and a scary one also. To take a good, hard look within yourself and recognize who you are and accepting it is a momentous feat for many, but it can really help you get to where you want to be in life.

2. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments – this rang very true for me. The small moments happen all day, every day, but most of us are too busy checking our smartphones to see them. My favorite “small moment” this year was watching a patient, fully recovered from a heart and kidney transplant and looking like a new person, play sweetly with his dog while I was there to interview him for a follow-up story.

3. Stop being ungrateful – if there’s anything I’ve learned while working for such an amazing hospital, it’s to be thankful for every breath, every day and every friend in life. Nothing is guaranteed, so don’t take anything for granted.

I think we’re off to a great start – and I hope you are also!


Ventricular assist device keeps man ticking


Washington University surgeons at Barnes-Jewish implant one of over 60 ventricular assist devices they will implant in 2011

Yesterday’s Monterey County Herald featured St. Louisan Tom Nichols, who after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure, received a ventricular assist device which has kept his failed heart beating for over two years.

Tom is well known around Barnes-Jewish as he is a mentor to many new patients who are eligible for the technology. He’s an outgoing guy who shows patients how to troubleshoot living with the device.

The most famous ventricular assist device patient is Dick Cheney, who told USA Today earlier this year: 

“It’s brought me back from end-stage heart failure,” says Cheney, who has suffered five heart attacks, the first at age 37. “I was in bad shape 14 months ago. Now I’m back to leading a relatively normal life. I fish, hunt a little bit, write books, (am) able to travel.”

The technology works like this: The pump is implanted into the patient’s abdomen and connects to the patient’s left ventricle. The device also has external wires that connect to a battery pack that keep the device operating and assisting the heart as it pumps blood throughout the body. Just a few years ago, Washington University surgeons put in around 12 of these devices annually. Now? Last year it was 55 and this year we are on pace for over 60. You can find out more about the devices on our website here and see more of Tom’s story here:

-Jason Merrill

First heart/kidney transplant patient, one year post-op


You may have seen our earlier post about Jonathan Sadowski, Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s first heart/kidney transplant patient. It’s been over a year since his ground-breaking surgery, and this young man is thriving.

I remember meeting with him just after his transplant in 2010, and he was very frail and unsteady, getting ready to go home and continue on with the recovery process. This is what he looked like then:

Getting to catch up with Jonathan and see his progress was wonderful. This young man, who’s had three hearts in his 21 years of life, is doing fabulous. He really has come a long way.


We’ve reached a milestone, thanks to you!


This post marks a milestone of sorts.

It’s #1,000 in a long line of posts we’ve shared with you over the last year and a half since we launched this blog.

We’ve enjoyed writing about new innovations and breakthroughs that Barnes-Jewish Hospital has been a part of, such as the Kling Center for Proton Therapy, the transcatheter aortic valve implantation, and the new stroke robot, Maestro.

We’ve also been able to bring to you many patient stories, such as the humor of brain tumor patient George Malich, our first heart/kidney transplant patient Jonathan Sadowski, and heart transplant patient Megan Moss.

But the most amazing thing about what this blog has afforded Barnes-Jewish Hospital, it’s team members, patients and community is a voice. We’ve been granted a unique way to communicate with you, and you’ve been great about sounding off to us. These are conversations we enjoy, and frankly, can’t get enough of.

So as we move forward into our next 1,000 posts, we’d like to say thanks for being a part of this conversation. Thanks for telling us what you think. And thanks, in advance, for continuing to provide us with feedback that will help us give you the information you’re looking for.

We’re listening. And we can’t wait to hear from you.


Kathy, Jason & Co.

Yes, Jonathan did get his wish


Yesterday we told you how excited we were about the reunion today between heart/kidney transplant patient Jonathan Sadowski and his care team.

The reunion was wonderful – many of Jonathan’s nurses were in attendance, as well as his heart transplant specialist Dr. Greg Ewald, his coordinator Cindy Pasque, and Gene Ridolfi, who is Director of the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital Transplant Center.

Both KSDK and Fox2 were in attendance, and will be showing the reunion tonight on the 5:00 news, so be sure to watch or set your DVR’s. We’ll be putting together a short video in the coming weeks with an interview with Jonathan at home with his parents, but in the meantime check out some photos from today’s very special reunion below!

Christine Sadowski (Jonathan's mom), Cindy Pasque, Dr. Greg Ewald, Jonathan, Lauren Southwick, Meredith Kuhlmann, Greg Nanos

Jonathan and Dr. Ewald

Christine presenting Dr. Ewald with an original print donated by artist & family member Ron Fleshman

Jonathan and Dr. Ewald

Nurse Greg Nanos shares a special moment with Jonathan

And the answer to the question is yes, Jonathan DID get his wish. He is back on the ice, playing hockey. And don’t worry, because it’s a no-hitting league so he’s not in any danger of getting “checked.”

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