Thomas Cook, 50, recently celebrated an unexpected achievement of living with a donor heart for more than 25 years. The moment the surgeons transplanted the heart inside him, it became his own. On rare occasions does someone with a donor heart visit the hospital on his 25th anniversary of transplantation, his doctors explained.
"His body and his heart have become one. We don't know why. It's very unusual when the body accepts a new organ and says, 'Hey, you're me.' His body just accepted the organ and never caused a fuss." Live Science quoted Steven Boyce, MedStar Heart Institute at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where Cook's underwent heart transplant on 01 February 1989.
Cook is one among the longest survivors after a heart transplant. Moreover, Cook has never reported of any significant rejection or any such medical complications that possibly can occur after the transplantation. Though he takes anti-rejection medicine, a must for all transplant patients, it rarely caused problems.
"I've done nothing but live my life. I've had ups and downs, but I'm enjoying the feelings of being alive. I'm happy to have them. It's part of the cycle of life, and I'm happy to still be in that cycle." Cook says.
It's unclear as to how many heart recipients have survived for 20 or more years after heart transplantation. Only in 1987, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a non-profit organization that matches available organ donors with receipnts globally, started collecting data on survival rates.
Recipients surviving for 10 years after the transplantation are about 56 percent, according to U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Survivors often complain of post-surgical complications like failing to function after the implantation or rejection. In addition to this, side effects from immunosuppressant drugs can damage the kidney, cause infection and even cancer.
With all these odds, heart patients are living better and longer lives today. All because of improved drug such as cyclosporine and some use of the devices that keep patients healthier until they receive a donor heart.
In the case of Cook, his youth was in his favor, since patients that received heart transplant in 1980s were living at their 60s and poorer in health as compared to a patient in his 20s.
When Cook was a four-year-old boy, doctors found that he had a heart valve problem. When he was older, he was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder often causing heart problems. By the time Cook was 25, he needed to undergo a surgery to replace his aortic valve. But unfortunately he suffered a heart attack during the procedure, which resulted in further damage and had to transplant his organ.
(Edited by Vanilla Sharma)