Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

An MCG First Saves Man Just in Time; the Augusta Hospital Performs Its Inaugural Heart Transplant

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

An MCG First Saves Man Just in Time; the Augusta Hospital Performs Its Inaugural Heart Transplant

Article excerpt

Byline: TOM CORWIN

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Freddie McCullum and his wife, Shirley, got to celebrate their second anniversary Tuesday, and now he can look forward to his 42nd birthday today, thanks to the heart of a stranger.

McCullum was days away from death last week when he became the first heart transplant patient in the history of Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics.

"We've got anniversary and birthday all rolled up into one," Shirley McCullum said. "April will be our blessed month."

The transplant culminated a five-year effort by the health system and transplant surgeon Kevin Landolfo to bring the service to Augusta, making it the only program in the area outside of Atlanta or Charleston, S.C. There are 76 patients waiting for a heart transplant in Georgia and 11 in South Carolina, with most waiting more than a year, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Nationally, there were 2,210 heart transplants performed last year, but 317 died awaiting a new heart.

University Hospital did three heart transplants in the late 1980s but couldn't justify the expense for so few cases when patients were more likely to have better outcomes at busier centers, said Marilyn Bowcutt, the vice president for patient care services.

In MCG's case, it has been a matter of assembling all the people and pieces it needed, said Landolfo, the director of the heart transplant program and chairman of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery.

"It's not really one surgeon or one physician. It requires a lot of specialized personnel," he said. "These people require very intensive social and follow-up care for almost every facet of their lives."

Because of the high costs of the medications transplant patients must take for the rest of their lives, the McCullums, of Stone Mountain, had been turned down by an Atlanta transplant program after Freddie lost his insurance and they couldn't raise the necessary finances, Shirley McCullum said. …

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