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Florida Hospital Heart Transplant Program Busiest In Southeast

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
The Bartch House at Florida Hospital offers transplant patients and their families a low-cost place to stay. Florida Hospital Medical Center did the most heart transplants in 2016 in the southeastern United States.

Florida Hospital Medical Center did the most heart transplants in 2016 in the southeastern United States.

Titusville resident Kevin Grady became the 100th Central Floridian to get a new heartbeat. It was a record year for Florida Hospital Medical Center.

Grady got a heart transplant last Christmas after waiting for a year.

“Dr. (Nirav) Raval called, actually I was on the golf course,” Grady said. “And he asked if I had opened all my presents and I said yes. He said well, I think we’ve got one here for you. He said we got a heart.”

Florida Hospital did 52 transplants in 2016. That’s more than any other heart transplant program in the southeast region, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. That means Florida Hospital Medical Center did more heart transplants than any center in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Researchers have found that high risk heart transplant patients do better at high volume transplant centers doing at least 15 transplants annually. Florida Hospital has quickly ramped up its heart transplant program to a high volume program. It did six heart transplants in its first year in 2012, and did 52 in 2016.

Raval, medical director of thoracic transplant programs, said local patients were traveling before. And another program implanting left ventricular assist devices, or LVADs – basically an implanted mechanical heart – were also adding to the heart transplant program.

“(LVADs) can then take a marginal candidate for heart transplant or a person who can’t wait and make them an excellent heart transplant candidate down the line,” Raval said.

Still, Tampa General has done more than 1,200 heart transplants to date: The most in the southeast. That one center has done more heart transplants than were performed in the entire state of Louisiana during the same time.

Nationwide, 2016 was a record year for all organ transplants, which researchers say was driven in part by more organs donated from people who would have previously been ruled out. That includes people who overdosed on opioids.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.