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Meet The Heart Transplant Recipient Who Benefited From Groundbreaking Procedure

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Reporter’s Notebook by KCAL9’s Stephanie Abrams:

Here’s a truly heart warming transplant story.

Rob Evans has been waiting nearly four years for a new heart. His wife Gail says he’s been very weak and would often lose consciousness. That’s all changed since Rob was chosen to be the recipient of a new heart as part of an experimental warm heart transplant. “Right now my heart beats like crazy. It’s going good. I’m walking up hills and getting stronger. We’re delighted with the results,” Evans exclaimed.

In this new procedure, the heart is never put on ice. Instead, it is transported in the organ care system developed by a company called Transmedics. Their new technology allows transport of the heart while it is warm and still pumping.

Evans transplant was done nine days ago at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center.

Dr. Abbas Ardehali, the director of heart and lung transplants at UCLA, says this procedure is revolutionary. He explained that keeping the heart warm not only prevents the damage that’s inevitable in organs kept on ice, but will also allow doctors to make improvements. “It might sound like science fiction, but the reality is that maybe in a few years we an take organs from donors and then improve them and make them better organs and then transplant them,” said Dr. Ardehali.

Dr. Ardehali believes these warm transplants could be FDA approved within five years, laying the groundwork for equipment that will be able to keep other organs warm during transport.

Keeping the heart pumping may also extend it’s life outside of the body from six to up to 24 hours, greatly expanding the donor pool by allowing transports nationwide.

Rob Evans was the eleventh to undergo a successful warm heart transplant at UCLA, and he and his wife say they’re very grateful to the donor and the new technology.

They’re both looking forward to returning to their farm outside of Phoenix, and hoping to start riding their horses together. His wife Gail says she plans to get her formerly fragile husband to start revving her engine. “That’ll be the test. When he goes down and starts up that tractor for me,” she laughed.

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