Medical milestone: 1,000 heart transplants at Aurora St. Luke's

Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee recently reached a milestone -- performing its 1,000th heart transplant over the holidays. 

During Thanksgiving week, Mary Zimmerman never felt so thankful. After 14 months on the waitlist for a heart transplant, it was her time.

Mary Zimmerman

"When I got it, they said they had a heart. And then my mind shut down," Zimmerman said. "The 29th, which was my son’s 40th birthday, that’s when I had the transplant. My son’s name is Max -- and I’m naming my heart Maxeen."

As Zimmerman's heart made its way to Milwaukee, it also marked the 1,000th heart transplant for Aurora St. Luke's. The hospital is one of only 15 centers in the U.S. to reach that number.

Dr. John Crouch

"The results we get are outstanding and that’s one of the reasons we have reached our milestone," said Dr. John Crouch, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Aurora St. Luke's.

While many transplant centers closed due to COVID-19, St. Luke's did not. Doctors there performed 50 transplants total in 2020 -- the most of any Midwest hospital.

"We felt it was necessary to continue this process for our patients because it wasn’t fair if we stopped because if there was an organ they would not be in the queue," Dr. Crouch said. 

Zimmerman said she is recovering and feeling well -- she is now able to walk without losing her breath. After receiving the gift of life over the holidays, she hopes her survival story will touch other people's hearts too.

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"We can use more organ donors. Especially hearts because it’s hard to get a heart it’s not that easy," Zimmerman said.

You can learn more about becoming an organ donor by visiting DonateLifeWisconsin.org

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