News Release: Emory Healthcare , School of Medicine , Woodruff Health Sciences

Feb. 11,  2011

MEDIA OPPORTUNITY - Emory Heart Transplant Patients Celebrate Gift of Life at "Heart to Heart" Transplant Reunion Event

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ATLANTA – The heart has always been the universal symbol of love, and of Valentine’s Day - the national holiday celebrating our love and affection for those special to us. Once again this year, Americans will spend tens of millions of dollars on heart shaped candies, cards, balloons, flower arrangements, and an assortment of other gifts.

For more than 100 Emory heart transplant patients and their families, this Valentine’s Day truly will celebrate the heart - as well as the gift of life, hope, the future, and those men and women who gave selflessly as a heart donor so that others could live and many families could grow.

As part of American Heart Month, media are invited to join this celebration event.

WHAT:          

More than 100 heart transplant patients and family members will celebrate their successful fight against congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathy, and other heart ailments this Valentine's Day during the Emory Heart to Heart Transplant Celebration Event.

WHEN:          

Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011 1-3 pm

WHERE:        

Miller-Ward Alumni House (Emory University Campus)

815 Houston Mill Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30322

WHO:            

Media will have an opportunity to speak with Emory heart transplant surgeons, care team members, cardiologists, and patients.       

NOTE: Media please confirm attendance with Lance Skelly at lance.skelly@emoryhealthcare.org or at 404/775-5050.

Patient Interview Highlight:

Emmet Walsh, 41 of Loganville, Georgia

At the age of 39, with two small children at home requiring an active daddy to chase their every playful and energetic move, Emmet Walsh of Loganville knew that his health would limit his stamina.

Walsh was born with the rare heart disorder called transposition of the great vessels, which is a congenital heart defect in which the two major vessels that carry blood away from the heart -- the aorta and the pulmonary artery -- are switched (transposed). In a normally functioning heart, blood that returns from the body goes through the right side of the heart and pulmonary artery to the lungs to get oxygen. The blood then comes back to the left side of the heart and travels out the aorta to the body.

In transposition of the great vessels, however, the blood flows to the lungs, picks up oxygen, and then goes right back to the lungs without returning to the body. And blood from the body returns to the heart - and then returns to the body without ever picking up oxygen in the lungs.

While still a young child, Walsh underwent a surgery referred to as a “mustard procedure,” in which a tunnel is created between the heart atria - thereby redirecting the oxygen-rich blood to the right ventricle and aorta and the oxygen-poor blood to the left ventricle and the pulmonary artery. The procedure, although effective and providing Walsh with a nearly normal childhood, proved to be a temporary cure for his condition.

Six years ago, Walsh’s heart began slowly failing again – right about the time his first born child, Sadie, then 3, was just beginning to get her legs underneath her.

“My kids (daughter Sadie, now 9, and son Max, 5) have had a sick daddy all their lives. I haven’t had the energy or stamina to do all the things I’ve wanted with them, for sure,” says Walsh. “I remember clearly the day my cardiologist Dr. Wendy Book told me I was going to need a heart transplant. It was like ‘okay, sure, let’s go and do it.’”

Around March of 2009, Walsh was listed on the waiting list for a heart transplant at Emory University Hospital, and received what many transplant recipients refer to as “the call” just a few short months later.  “I got the call in April and couldn’t believe it had happened so soon,” says Walsh. It was truly one of the most memorable days of my life, and now my kids have a healthy dad around.”

On Saturday, as more than 100 heart transplant recipients celebrate their good fortunes, and the gift of life made by other anonymous donor ‘angels,’ Walsh celebrates another milestone – he turns 42 on Friday.  “It’s really special to celebrate not only another year of living, but also with so many other people who understand the real gift we all have. A donor heart is something that changes, not only your life, but many lives around you – like my kids, who will grow up with a healthy dad. It’s just incredible what something like that can do for so many people down the line.”

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The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences:
Blog: http://emoryhealthblog.com
Twitter: @emoryhealthsci
Web: http://emoryhealthsciences.org

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