Transplant recipient celebrates 30 years with new heart


Mary Whisennand was only 39 when she was diagnosed with a progressive weakening of her heart muscle.

Within three years, her condition had deteriorated to the point that she needed a new heart.

Determined to live long enough to see her then-16-year-old daughter Tammie graduate from high school, Mary and her husband, Jim, moved to Wichita from their rural Elkhart, Kansas, home so that she could be put on the waiting list. One month and three days later, she became one of the first seven patients to receive a new heart at what today is Via Christi Hospital St. Francis.

“At that time, surviving for five years was a really big deal,” says Mary, who subsequently moved back to Elkhart and with her family shared in a number of milestones: Tammie’s graduation and marriage to her high school sweetheart, Brian; a 25th anniversary cruise to the Caribbean with Jim; and the births of grandsons Austin and Lance.

After Jim died in 2001, Mary subsequently moved to Madison, Mississippi, to be close to Tammie and her family.

On Feb. 12, she celebrated two more family milestones: 30 years with her new heart and watching Austin graduate from high school. Continue reading