Sharp's heart transplant program turns 30

The San Diego Union Tribune | Paul Sisson

Dr. Robert Adamson (left), medical director, Cardiac Transplant Program, Sharp Memorial Hospital and Dr. Walter Dembitsky, medical director, Cardiac Surgery perform a heart transplant surgery at Sharp Memorial Hospital. — Nelvin C. Cepeda

On Oct. 11, 1985, doctors at Sharp Memorial Hospital performed the region’s first heart transplant. Thirty years later, they will soon complete No. 400.

The same close-knit team has performed nearly all of those operations, witnessing the same startling sight of two human hearts twitching as they pass each other outside the patient’s body.

It is an experience that remains exciting even after decades of repetition, said surgeon Dr. Robert Adamson, the program’s director.

“You have to understand what terminal heart failure is. These are people who get up in the morning exhausted and struggle to walk to the restroom or brush their teeth,” Adamson said. “They have a death sentence on their foreheads, and it’s a privilege and an opportunity to give them a chance for a fuller life.” Continue reading