25 Years Later, A Donor Heart Still Strong and Supple

Thomas Cook, 50, of Sharpsburg, Md., is celebrating a very unique milestone as he is among the longest-surviving heart transplant patients on record.

March 4, 2014

Two Sons, One Heart: a Special Mother-Son Story

25 Years Later, A Donor Heart Still Strong and Supple - Two Sons, One Heart: a Special Mother-Son StoryWashington, D.C., March 4, 2014 — Thomas Cook, 50, of Sharpsburg, Md., is celebrating a very unique milestone as he is among the longest-surviving heart transplant patients on record. Twenty-five years ago, cardiac surgeons at MedStar Washington Hospital Center performed an emergency heart transplant after Cook’s own heart began to fail rapidly. The donor heart was transplanted into his chest on February 1, 1989, and it was one of the earliest heart transplants performed at the Hospital Center. The heart turned out to be a perfect match and a quarter of a century later, Cook is thriving.

“This is a rare accomplishment,” said Steven Boyce, MD, surgical director of heart failure and heart transplant at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute located at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “His body and his heart have become one.”

Statistics show that the 10-year survival rate for heart transplant surgery is about 56 percent. The Hospital Center performed the District’s first heart transplant on May 22, 1987, and since that time has completed more than 230.

Cook said that his heart transplant is a gift, as well as the bond he has developed with his heart donor's family. The organ was donated by a woman named Susan Knight, whose son, Jeff Brown, 27, lost his life in a motorcycle accident. Knight said that she and Cook would one day like to co-author a book about their experience together.

"We would like to write a book and call it, 'Two Sons, One Heart,'" added Knight.

Knight is a petite woman and when she stands next to Cook, she says she is right next to her son's heart. In an odd coincidence, Knight’s great-great grandfather’s name was Thomas Cook.

Cook urges people to sign up to be organ donors as the Cook/Knight bond is living proof that donations can save lives!

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About MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, headquartered at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, is a national leader in the research, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease, and has been the premier destination for cardiac care in the nation's capital for more than 50 years. U.S.News & World Report and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons consistently recognize the Washington region’s preeminent heart program as one of the nation’s best.

In 2013, MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute entered into a first-of-its-kind clinical and research alliance with world-renowned Cleveland Clinic Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute, uniting two of the nation’s top heart programs. Together, the two organizations will bring the most promising, innovative cardiac care and research to the Washington, D.C. region. Visit us at www.medstarheartinstitute.org.

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