GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Spectrum Health's Richard DeVos Health and Lung Transplant Program reached a significant milestone when its team completed the 100th Heart and 100th lung transplans in a few days at the end of December.
Elaine Slikkers of Holland was the 100th heart transplant patient in the program. She said that the surgery gave her a second chance in life.
"It was [heart beat] so irregular," Slikkers said. "Before my transplant, my life, my plans were day by day".
Just a few years ago, Slikkers realized that his heart was failing and he was diagnosed with the inflammatory disease called Sarcoidosis.
"I ended up with a pacemaker," Slikkers said. "On Christmas Day 2013, I had a heart attack and came back here, with a new pacemaker with a defibrillator."
Slikkers said his only hope was to get a new heart, and to his surprise, it happened .27, 2017.
"I was impressed because those are the words he wants to hear," Slikkers said. "It can happen at any time of day."
Dr. Marzia Leacche is one of the surgeons who performed the heart transplant Slikkers and said she is proud to be part of a team that helps so many people to resume their daily lives.
"She [Slikkers] could not believe it," Leacche said. . "That night it was around 10:30 p.m. when we told her we found a suitable donor and she just could not believe it."
The program was founded in 2010 and is the only program in the state to perform combined heart and lung transplants in the past 18 years, completing one in 2013 and another in 2015.
Dr. Leacche said that although all patients who have undergone surgery have a different history, there is something that all patients have in common.
"Everyone has this incredible smile and they look at you as if you had given them the best gift of all." Said Dr. Leacche.
Slikkers said he is recovering and feels great, physically and mentally, and can make plans for the future.
"Now we can get a calendar and put something and not live life minute by minute," said Slikkers. "It's a new beginning to feel good again",
Representatives of Spectrum Health said that while they could celebrate their hundredth heart and lung transplant, there are still more than 100,000 people who need organ transplants in the United States