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The Miracle of a Heart Transplant

At only 48 years of age, Mary Wilson was given less than a year to live.

To her surprise, Mary had developed severe cardiomyopathy, a life-threatening cardiac condition. Her heart was failing, and her prognosis was grim. With no long-term treatment options left, Mary started the evaluation process to be placed on the waitlist for a heart transplant through the new Baptist Health heart transplant program, which was the first of its kind in Arkansas. In addition, a transplant had yet to be performed and they had only been accepting candidates for a little over a month. With no other possible treatments, pursuing a heart transplant was Mary’s only option to live.

On October 27, 1989, Baptist Health placed Mary on the waitlist for a heart. Although Mary understood that being placed on the waitlist was a major step, she knew the odds were still against her survival. Fifty percent of patients with her diagnosis die within two years and there was a limited number of donor hearts available.

Two weeks later, in the middle of tragedy, there was hope.

On November 8, 1989, disaster struck the Wilcox family when a house fire claimed the lives of three young Wilcox brothers. In the face of tremendous grief, the parents gave permission for their boys’ organs to be donated for transplantation – and one, 10-year-old Jared, shared the same blood type as Mary. Sadly, while Jared lost his life, he was able to give Mary another chance to continue living hers.

Mary went into surgery two days later. Over the next two hours and 15 minutes, Dr. Craig Kuykendall, assisted by Drs. John Ransom and Bill Fiser, took Jared’s heart and placed it within Mary’s chest. The heart immediately began to beat on its own. After the surgery, Mary spent the next couple of weeks in Baptist Health-Little Rock’s Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit and then the cardiac unit, where she was monitored by Dr. Kuykendall, as well as attending cardiologists Drs. Steve Hutchins and Jim Kizziar, to help her body accept the new organ. Thankfully, the first heart transplant performed in Arkansas had been successful.

Misfortune was transformed into a miracle and Mary was released from the hospital with a second chance at life.

The Baptist Health Heart Failure and Transplant Institute has provided 30 years of unmatched care for patients. We are still the only hospital in the state with an adult heart transplant program. Our healing ministry provides the highest level of cardiac care and helps Arkansans live longer, fuller lives.

Click here to learn how you can help us continue our amazing work at Baptist Health Transplant Institute.