Heart transplant

First heart transplant recipient in DC region dies of COVID-19

Eva Baisey, known as one of the oldest heart transplant recipients in medical history, has died of COVID-19 at the age of 55. She died on September 12, 2021 – more than 34 years after receiving a heart from an unlikely donor.

▶ Watch the video: Broken hearts

Eva Baisey, known as one of the oldest heart transplant recipients in the history of medicine, has died of COVID-19 at the age of 55. She died on September 12, 2021 – more than 34 years after receiving a heart from an unlikely donor.

“48 Hours” and Jim Axelrod covered the case in an episode titled “Broken Hearts”.

Doctors thought Baisey, a former nurse, could have a life expectancy of one to five years longer, but she exceeded all expectations, still living three and a half decades with the donated heart.

A smiling Eva Baisey as she prepared to leave the hospital almost two months after her heart transplant. (INOVA)

In 1986, then 20, the single mother of two was diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy.

“’Idiopathic’ means we have no idea what caused the heart failure,” Dr. Ed Lefrak told CBS News’s Jim Axelrod in 2019.

Baisey would become the first heart transplant patient in the Washington, DC area – and Dr. Lefrak the first surgeon to perform it. Back then, heart transplants were so rare that he and his team spent their lunch breaks in the morgue to perform the surgery.

Then, on December 28, 1986, they finally had a donor.

“I think they called me and told me it was a donor with a gunshot wound to the head,” Lefrak said.

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Mary Willey and Karen Ermert (OAKTON HS AND FALLS CHURCH HS YEARBOOK)

It would be years before they found out the whole story behind the heart. The donor was Mark Wiley, a young man who had killed his ex-girlfriend, Karen Ermert, 19. When police arrived at the scene, Willey shot himself in the head.

But her heart was still beating and Eva Baisey would be the recipient.

“It’s just – it’s a heart. It is an organ. It’s not a killer organ, “Baisey said at” 48 Hours “in 2019.” And it’s just an organ that saved my life. “

Not only was new life born out of tragedy, long-standing friendships emerged. Eva Baisey became close to Dr Lefrak and the medical team that saved her life.

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Eva Baisey and Dr Ed Lefrak. (INOVA)

“So it’s not just your doctor,” Jim Axelrod asked in 2019.

“No, he’s my friend,” she replied. “I still call him Dr Lefrak, but he’s my friend now. Yeah, I love him. I love him dearly. “


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