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Augusta man receives heart transplant at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital | Health

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Augusta man receives heart transplant at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital
Augusta man receives heart transplant at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital

ATLANTA, Ga.  – Augusta resident Darren Bell, who has struggled with congestive heart failure since 2005, received the gift of new life when Piedmont cardiovascular surgeon David Dean, M.D., performed a life-saving heart transplant for Bell on August 3, after months of waiting on the transplant list.

Last November, Bell noticed his symptoms of shortness of breath, swelling and fatigue were getting worse and went to Piedmont’s Advanced Heart Failure Center in Atlanta for a full evaluation.

“When Darren came to us, his heart wasn’t able to meet the demands of his body,” said Nirav Raval, M.D., medical director of the heart transplant program at Piedmont. “We put a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) in him and he got stronger, gained muscle and became nutritionally sound. So, he was better off when the time came for his transplant.”

In the spring of 2012, Bell became one of about 47 Georgians waiting on the heart transplant list. On Friday, August 3, Bell received a phone call from Piedmont on his way to the grocery store. A heart had become available for him and he was to have surgery at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital that evening.

“My heart wasn’t building muscle, it was just deteriorating. But I felt about 80 percent better after getting the LVAD,” said Bell. “I was living every day like I always would. I was kind of nervous when I found out I would be having a transplant, but I was sure Dr. Dean would take care of me.”

As of today, 3,219 people across the United States are waiting list candidates for a heart transplant, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. One of the goals of the heart transplant program at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital is to keep as many donor hearts in Georgia as possible, as nearly 300 were given to transplant recipients in other states over the last decade.

“Darren was the transplant lottery ticket holder because he could get a heart from anyone because of his blood type,” said Dr. Dean, surgical director of Piedmont’s heart transplant program. “Plus, he was pretty high on the list. He is recovering remarkably and I expect he’ll be going home this week.”

Piedmont Atlanta has been a leader in transplant services for 25 years providing more than 2,500 second chances to people who, without an organ donor, would die. The first kidney transplant at Piedmont Atlanta was performed in 1986; the first liver transplant in 2005; and the first heart transplant in 2012. Piedmont also performed Georgia’s first simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplant in 2000. 

For more information about Piedmont Atlanta Hospital’s heart transplant program, visit piedmont.org. Information about registering as a potential organ donor can be found at donatelifegeorgia.org.