The University Record, February 18, 2002

UMHS milestone

By Kara Gavin
Health System Public Relations

While most people celebrated Valentine’s Day with heart-shaped cards and candy boxes, Bonnie Besonson celebrated with a very special kind of heart: the new one that beats inside her body. The transplanted heart gave her a second chance at life and made her the 500th person ever to have a heart transplant at the U-M.

The 61-year-old former schoolteacher was released from intensive care and began the recovery that will let her start life again, under the care of one of the oldest and largest heart transplant programs in the nation, and the oldest and largest in Michigan.

The 500-transplant milestone included 494 adult and pediatric transplants performed at UMHS since 1984, as well as six performed in the 1960s and 70s. The first patient to receive a heart at UMHS is still alive.

Today, U-M teams transplant about 40 hearts a year in patients as young as two days old, but the demand for hearts far exceeds the supply. Patients often wait for months or years for a match. Many don’t make it.

“Every transplant we do means someone has given the gift of life to another, but his milestone occasion is especially gratifying,” says Francis Pagani, M.D., an associate professor of surgery at the Medical School. “Even so, with 58 adults and three children still on our heart transplant waiting lists at the U-M, and more than 4,100 others waiting nationwide, we hope we can use this occasion to attract attention to the importance of organ donation.”