WVU Medicine performs state’s first heart transplant

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – On Saturday, Robert Parsons, a 61-year-old male from Chesapeake, Ohio, got a new lease on life when surgeons at the West Virginia University Heart and Vascular Institute and the WVU Medicine Transplant Alliance performed West Virginia’s first heart transplant.

Dr. Vinay Badhwar (left) and Dr. Muhammad Salman perform the state's first heart transplant.
Vinay Badhwar, M.D. (left), and Muhammad Salman, M.D., perform the state's first heart transplant on Saturday, Nov. 2. 

“Today marks a new chapter for transplantation in West Virginia,” Michael Shullo, Pharm.D., associate vice president of transplant services for WVU Medicine and leader of the WVU Medicine Transplant Alliance, said. “This is the culmination of a tremendous team effort to support access to organ transplantation for all West Virginians and patients from our surrounding regions.” 

The operation took a total of six hours and concluded at noon. By 4 p.m., Parsons was stable and taken off the ventilator. He was sitting up and visiting with his siblings from Huntington.

Robert Parsons and Dr. Vinay Badhwar four hours after transplant surgery
Robert Parsons and Vinay Badhwar, M.D., pose for a photo four hours after Dr. Badhwar transplanted a new heart into Parsons, who was admitted to the hospital in decompensated end-stage heart failure and shock requiring a temporary mechanical assist pump inserted into his left axillary artery preoperatively.

The transplant team included heart surgeons Vinay Badhwar, M.D.; Muhammad Salman, M.D., and Chris Cook, M.D.; heart failure cardiologists Christopher Bianco, D.O.; George Sokos, D.O., Marco Caccamo, D.O.; anesthesiologists Matthew Ellison, M.D., and John Bozek, M.D.; surgical assistants; transplant coordinators; nurses; pharmacists; social workers; dietitians; and perfusionists.   

“On behalf of the tremendous team of your WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, it is an honor and privilege to bring access to this much-needed and precious, life-saving therapy to our patient today,” said Dr. Badhwar, transplant surgeon and executive chair of the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute and the WVU Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. “We have opened the doorway to a new future for West Virginians, who no longer have to travel out of state for heart transplantation.” 
The WVU Medicine program has several more patients in need currently on a waiting list for heart transplantation.

“This heart transplant was the first ever in West Virginia’s 156-year history, and it marked a pivotal moment for the Institute as it continues to establish itself as one of the premier heart and vascular programs in the United States,” Albert L. Wright, Jr., president and CEO of the West Virginia University Health System, said. “We are proud of the team of dedicated professionals who made this surgery a success, and we are honored to bring this critical service to the people of West Virginia and all we serve.”

For more information on the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute, visit WVUMedicine.org/Heart. For more information on transplantation or to refer a potential heart transplant patient, contact the WVU Medicine Transplant Alliance at 304-974-3004. To register as an organ donor, visit www.registerme.org/wvumedicine

Heart Transplant Personnel List

  • Michael Shullo, Pharm.D., associate vice president, transplant services
  • Vinay Badhwar, M.D., transplant surgeon and executive chair, WVU Heart and Vascular Institute
  • Muhammad Salman, M.D., transplant surgeon and surgical director of Advanced Heart Failure
  • Chris Cook, M.D., procurement cardiac surgeon
  • Katherine Lestitian, P.A.-C., cardiac surgical assistant
  • George Sokos, D.O., medical director of Advanced Heart Failure
  • Marco Caccamo, D.O., transplant cardiologist
  • Christopher Bianco, D.O., transplant cardiologist
  • Robert Nagel, lead surgical nurse coordinator
  • Adam Charlton, lead surgical technician
  • Tamisa VanMeter, surgical technician
  • Amy Lieb, surgical nurse
  • Christina Zacharia, lead perfusionist
  • Kelsey Redick, perfusionist
  • Melissa Duarte, perfusionist
  • Rachelle Zomak, director, transplant operations and compliance
  • Lynsey Biondi, M.D., physician director, transplant services
  • Kim Meyer, manager, transplant quality
  • Chavonne Newman, manager, transplant coordinator
  • Alexis Albright, transplant coordinator
  • Jessica Stein, transplant coordinator
  • Gretchen Kipp, Pharm.D., transplant pharmacist
  • Carrie O'Neil, transplant social worker
  • Chelsea Wilson, transplant dietitian
  • Candace Dafonzo, transplant financial coordinator
  • Matthew Everett, data specialist
  • Margaret Buttars, transplant service representative
  • Elizabeth Tennant, transplant service representative
  • Krystal Fauvie, administrative assistant