COVID-19 pandemic not affecting heart transplant surgeries at AdventHealth

Hospital saw increase in procedures

ORLANDO, Fla. – Hospital officials said the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t affecting AdventHealth’s transplant program.

Savannah Nissel joined AdventHealth’s morning briefing on Thursday. She recalled what life was like before her heart transplant.

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“I had never ran in my life. I had never been able to play team sports, I was never able to chase after my dog in the front yard,” Nissel said.

When Nissel was three years old, she said doctors found a heart murmur. She said she lived asymptomatic until she was 19, when she got life-changing news from her doctor.

“He said, ‘Well you probably have about 2 to 5 years with your heart,’” Nissel said.

She went on the transplant list last summer. Nissel got a heart in August, but then she tested positive for COVID-19.

AdventHealth transplant cardiologist Dr. Stacy Mandras said that prevented her from getting the transplant.

“In that setting where they’re actively infected, transplant is simply not an option,” Mandras said.

Mandras said despite the pandemic, they actually did more transplants last year. Hospital officials said they did 64 heart transplants.

Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows Florida saw an increase in transplants between 2019 and 2020. Data also shows there was an increase in donors. According to the data, these were the highest ever reported numbers since officials started tracking these stats more than 30 years ago.

“I would say from a transplant standpoint, a heart transplant standpoint, I don’t believe that COVID really affected the work that they’re doing all that much,” Mandras said.

After testing negative, Nissel got a new heart last September.

“Everybody is like, ‘Oh my gosh you walk so fast,’” she said. “And I’m like, ‘That’s cause I got a young heart, new engine.’”

Nissel adds she always remembers the donor and never takes this gift for granted.

“This is something that I’m living not just for myself, but for somebody else,” she said.


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