California Pacific Hospital Marks Heart Transplant Milestone

Mitchell Peterson of Oakland, the recipient of California Pacific Medical Center's 500th heart transplant.
Photo credit Matt Bigler/KCBS

The California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco is celebrating the completion of its 500th heart transplant.  The recipient was an Oakland man who nearly died waiting for a transplant.

“The heart transplant really changed my life,” 29-year-old Mitchell Peterson said. 

He hadn't been feeling well for years, so he finally went to the emergency room to get checked out.

“Turns out it was congestive heart failure,” he said. 

The remedy was a new heart, and after a difficult waiting period, he finally got one at California Pacific Medical Center.

“It couldn’t have gone better,” Brett Sheridan, chief of cardiac surgery, said. 

He also said heart transplants have come a long way since the early 1980's when every one was almost a miracle. Now there are advanced immunosuppression drugs, which allows the new organ time to grow into its new body.

“It really does come off as a much lower risk event than it used to be,” Sheridan said. 

Michael Pham, medical director for the transplant program, said Michell's old heart was likely weakened due to treatments for bone cancer when he was a boy.

“The chemotherapy that was used to treat the cancer left him with a damaged heart,” he said. 

Michell urges others to become organ donors.