Throughout my years as a cardiothoracic surgeon, I’ve performed hundreds of heart transplants. But still, with each new patient, there’s a moment during surgery when the new heart swells with blood and begins to beat, and I find myself in awe -- of the new life I literally see taking shape before me, and the emotionally tumultuous journey that leads to nearly all successful organ transplants. My profound respect for this process is just one of the many reasons that today’s show resonates so deeply with me.
Our program reveals the incredible story of Jim Maki, the first man in this country to receive a face transplant and Susan Whitman-Helfgot, the woman who made it possible when she agreed to donate her husband’s face. Before his marathon 17-hour operation, Jim could not eat or breathe normally, nor could he make facial expressions. In fact, Jim could hardly leave his house. But now, with his new face, Jim has a second chance at life. Jim and Susan’s story is the perfect example of why organ transplants represent medical science at its finest and demonstrate the resiliency of the human body and spirit.
But this story isn’t just significant for the medical community, but for each and every one of us living in America today. Right now,104,873 people are on waiting lists and there’s a scarcity of donated organs. I don’t think it’s because of selfishness or reluctance, but because we’re not having candid conversations about organ donation. We need to ask ourselves and those close to us these difficult questions.
One of my favorite things about hosting this show is the ability to spark a dialogue with you, the viewer. I challenge you and your family to honestly discuss Susan’s decision and organ donation. This lifesaving, life altering miracle procedure begins with a simple conversation. It can start today. It can start with you.