by Karina Mazhukhina / KOMO News
Man accepts hepatitis C infected heart — and cured (Photo: UW Medicine)
SEATTLE – Kerry Hayes was ready for a heart transplant, even if it meant developing hepatitis C along with it.
After living with an artificial heart for 17 months, 49-year-old Hayes from Anacortes applied to receive an infected one, becoming the first recipient in the Pacific Northwest to willingly receive a hepatitis C (HCV) infected heart, said UW Medicine in a news release.
Last summer, the University of Washington Medical Center implemented a transplant protocol to include HCV infected donors. The protocol is one of a kind in the Pacific Northwest, according to LifeCenter Northwest, a local agency dedicated to saving lives through organ and tissue donation.
On August 4, Hayes began an eight-week course of daily antivirals to remove the disease and was cured on December 20, 2018.
“I’m happy and, yeah, it’s a relief,” said Hayes, who at the age of 28 underwent the first of five open-heart surgeries, in a UW Medicine news release. “The treatment was a piece of cake, nothing to be scared of. I haven’t had any problems – no rejection or issues with the heart at all.”
As of now, 30 to 35 heart-transplant candidates are on a waiting list at the UW Medical Center – with each one debriefed of the HCV protocol.
More than 125,000 people are in need of an organ transplant in the U.S. and depending on the organ type, about 20 percent of patients will be removed from the waiting list because of clinical deterioration or death.
Typically, infected organs were discarded unless the transplant candidate already had the hepatitis C virus. That’s changing, with doctors now able to use antiviral therapy to cure hepatitis C.
“We hope Mr. Hayes’ positive outcome gives confidence to other transplant candidates who might benefit by opting in to this protocol,” said Jason Smith, the cardiothoracic surgeon directing the protocol in the news release. “Patients have been very receptive to being listed for these organs because it gives them the chance to get a heart potentially much sooner than they would otherwise.”
He says that the UW Medical Center could see as much as 10 percent increase in transplants of HCV-positive donors.