Heart transplants unite long-lost brothers

Courier Journal | Laura Ungar

Brothers Aaron Arnold, left, and Kenneth Catlett, right, had heart transplants at the University of Kentucky one year apart and were reunited wafter not seeing each other for 20 years when a nurse unknowingly brought one to see the other to allay surgery fears. December 18, 2015 (Photo: By Michael Clevenger, The Courier-Journal)

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Aaron Arnold lay in a hospital bed, tethered to machines and gripped by fear, waiting for a new heart.

Heart Transplant Coordinator Donna Dennis hoped to allay his concerns by having a former patient talk to him, and heart recipient Kenneth Arnold Catlett was happy to oblige.

But as soon as Catlett opened the door, the recognition on Arnold's face was immediate, and everyone realized this was no ordinary meeting between patients.

“Hey, I know this guy," Arnold exclaimed. "It’s my brother!”

The two men hadn’t seen each other in about 20 years, having grown up apart, met as young adults and lost touch.

But they soon learned that they not only shared a father but also the same medical condition - heart failure caused by dilated cardiomyopathy, which affects the lower and upper chambers of the heart and is more likely to strike men than women. Continue reading