Vivien Williams: Organ transplantation has come a long way in the past decades. Take heart transplants, for example. It used to be that only people under age 50 could get them and they were fairly risky. Now, people in their seventies or having transplants and transplant patients of all ages are living longer and feeling stronger. Here's more on the state of heart transplantation from Mayo Clinic.

Bob Aronson: I enjoy doing a little wood work.

Ms. Williams: Model shipbuilding doesn't look strenuous, but when Bob Aronson's heart was failing because of a disease called cardiomyopathy, any activity was too much.

Mr. Aronson: I couldn't do anything anymore other than sit in front of the TV and sleep.

Ms. Williams: You see cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. It causes your heart to become weak until it can't pump efficiently. Medications may help, but in severe cases like Bob's, the only option is a heart transplant.

Mr. Aronson: I'm some kind of a miracle. I was only on the list for 13 days.

Ms. Williams: Bob was lucky because there are not enough donor organs to meet demand. At any given time, there are 10 thousand people waiting for organs, but only a quarter of those people get transplants. But Dr. Jeffrey Hosenpud says there is some good news. Fewer people are dying while waiting.

Jeffrey Hosenpud, M.D., Mayo Clinic cardiologist: We're using mechanical pumps to keep patients alive while they're waiting for their transplant more and more.

Ms. Williams: And more good news is that transplant patients are living longer.

Dr. Hosenpud: When I started in the mid eighties, in this business, our outcomes were in the 70 to 80% one-year survival rate. Now, the expectation is that the, is that patients should survive at least, there should be at least a 90% one-year survival rate.

Ms. Williams: But the reality is more donor organs are needed to save the lives of people like Bob.

Mr. Aronson: That donor and his family, they gave me my life back. I was dying and they gave me my life back.

Ms. Williams: The two most common causes for heart failure resulting in the need for transplantation are cardiomyopathy and coronary artery disease. If you want to learn more about Bob and his desire to spread the word about organ donation, check out his blog at

For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.

Nov. 04, 2023