Dan Olivett’s Relentless Story

Kambiz Ghafourian, MD, MPH Heart Failure and Heart Transplantation

Duc Thinh Pham, MD Cardiac Surgery

Daniela P. Ladner, MD, MPH Transplantation Surgery

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The Heart of Dan's Care

As part of the top-ranked Cardiology and Heart Surgery program in Illinois,* Dr. Ghafourian had guided Dan’s initial prognosis. Once organs became available, Dr. Ghafourian guided his team through an evaluation of Dan’s future heart.

I just hit it off with Dr. Ghafourian. To me, next to my father, he’s the greatest man I’ve ever known. He saved my life.

*Northwestern Memorial Hospital, U.S. News & World Report, 2022–2023

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The Perfect Mix

With Dan’s future heart secured, it was up to Dr. VanWagner to identify a liver that would also take. Complicating matters was the need to craft a medical regimen that would allow both organs to do well and not to be rejected.

We had two dozen meetings to review our medical protocols, what kind of medications he was going to get and how those medications would interact with the liver or heart.
–Lisa B. VanWagner, MD, MSc
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The First Transplant

As Dan was led into surgery, his care was placed in the capable hands of cardiac surgeon Duc Thinh Pham, MD, and his surgical team. Their approach would not only make for an efficient transplantation of Dan’s new heart, but also provide Dan’s liver team with an easier path for his liver transplant.

We had a rare opportunity with this procedure. By performing both transplantations in one day, we were able to provide our colleagues on the liver transplant surgical team much more abdominal exposure than they’re used to having.
–Duc Thinh Pham, MD

After being sedated, Dan’s chest cavity was carefully opened up, and tubes were inserted to circulate oxygen and blood while his heart and lungs were bypassed. Once circulation was completely diverted, his diseased heart was removed and replaced with the donor organ. With a small burst of electricity, Dan’s transplanted heart began to beat in its new home.

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The Final Fix

One organ transplant takes a heavy toll on the body, but Dan was only halfway home. Swiftly, his heart transplant and liver transplant surgical teams switched places in the operating room, with leadership being ceded to senior transplant surgeons Daniela P. Ladner, MD, MPH, Juan Carlos Caicedo, MD, and Nitin N. Katariya, MD. Anesthesiologist Choy R. Lewis, MD, stayed put, as her experience extended to both of these complex procedures, which was beneficial to Dan’s team – a unique medley of the heart and liver transplant surgeons at Northwestern Medicine.

This was the first dual liver and heart transplantation that Northwestern Medicine had performed in over a decade. For it to go so smoothly is a credit to the preparedness and skill set of everyone on Dan’s team.
–Daniela P. Ladner, MD, MPH

Together, Dr. Ladner, Dr. Caicedo, and Dr. Katariya made small incisions underneath Dan’s ribs, then clamped the arteries and veins supplying blood to his diseased liver. The liver was carefully removed and replaced with the donor liver, which was then reattached to the surrounding vessels and bile ducts. Dan’s path to full recovery would take months. But with his Northwestern Medicine care team’s collective depth and experience, his treatment plan would return him to a high quality of life.

We can’t do any of this without our nurses. They perform all the daily measures. They talk to the patient on a daily basis. They shepherd the patient into transplant. Their work is the lion’s share of the process. They’re the heart and soul of everything we do, no question.
–Daniela P. Ladner, MD, MPH