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Home / Health / When waiting for a new heart grew longer, the patient grew sick – ProPublica

When waiting for a new heart grew longer, the patient grew sick – ProPublica



In early 2014, when Travis Hogan's malformed heart failed, his long-time doctors at Texas Children's Hospital referred him to Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center, long considered one of the best in the country for complicated heart transplants was.

Hogan, who was 29 at the time and living in his family's home in Pasadena, Texas, did not know, but the iconic program underwent a series of dramatic changes.

Two years earlier, the transplantation program got into trouble for several top doctors left for a competitor. In the following years, patients in St. Luke's waited significantly longer than the regional or national average for new hearts.

In 201

5, when Hogan's health fell on the list after more than a year, he was dealt two extra punches. First, the hospital staff removed him from the Active Transplantation Waiting List in November 2015, citing his deteriorating liver as a cause for concern, which his mother, Georgeann Hogan, had told reporters this week.

At about the same time, the hospital staff explained that OH "Bud" Frazier, the 75-year-old surgeon who was originally prepared to treat her son, stopped working. Frazier had planned to implant a ventricular assist device to help Hogan's failing heart and have his liver recover until he could get a transplant, said Georgeann Hogan.

She said nobody told her family why Frazier stopped operating; Frazier told reporters in an April interview that he was getting old and ready to quit.

The change amazed Hogan's family.

They did not realize that earlier in the year, several patients shortly after transplants in St Lukes leads the hospital to examine the heart program and pursue a more conservative approach.

It also hired a new senior surgeon, dr. Jeffrey Morgan, one who arrived in early 2016. Hospital staff told the hogans that Morgan would pick up where Frazier stopped his plans for a ventricular assist device, said Georgeann Hogan.

A photograph of Hogan exhibited in his family home
(Elizabeth Conley / Houston Chronicle)

But after Travis Hogan was hospitalized in February 2016, St. Luke's Heart Transplant Center decided that he "probably would not survive a combined heart and liver transplant "Hospital said in a statement. Morgan said of Hogan's cardiologist that he would not operate, Hogan's family said, not even implanting the cardiac assist device.

"That was devastating," said Hogan's sister Regina Tran.

In past decades, patients born with a heart defect such as Hogan came from all over the country to be treated in St. Luke's, which was known for its willingness to take the toughest cases. However, according to publicly available data, in 2016 the hospital did not include a single congenital heart defect in its transplantation waiting list; other high-risk patients, such as Hogan, have since been removed from the list.

Dr. Andrew Civitello, the top cardiologist of the transplant program, recalled a handful of difficult conversations with critically ill patients this year, though he did not specifically refer to Hogan: "We wanted and still want to transplant you," he said but given the current environment we unfortunately can not take the risks.

Wait Times

How long it took for 25 percent of patients on the waiting list to receive a heart transplant between mid-2011 and late 2016 for hospitals in Houston and on average nationally.

Source: Scientific Register Credit: Haisam Hussein, Special for ProPublica

Hogan's family tried to find an alternative, another St. Luke physician urged the family to go to the nearby Houston Methodist hospital, his mother said. [19659002ThetriallastedweeksasthefamilystruggledtogettheinsurancetoapprovethetransferandMethodistimplantedaballoonpumptohelpHogan'sheartpumpbloodwhileawaitingatransplant

One did not arrive in time Hogan died a few weeks later, on May 26, 2016, at the age of 31.

In a written statement St. Lukes Hogan spent 486 days on the active heart transplant list before being disabled and later removed, and the median waiting time for a heart transplant in his area for a patient with Hogan's blood type was 537 days. "Mr. Hogan's decision to be treated at [St. Luke’s] had no negative impact on his likelihood of receiving a heart transplant," the hospital said.

Tran acknowledges that her brother was very ill. But she sometimes wonders if he could still be alive if he had not waited two years for a heart in St. Luke.

"We went there because we were told that St. Luke's was the place to get the most difficult heart disease," said Tran. "But when it was time for my brother to receive a new heart, they rejected us."

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