St. Luke’s 600th heart transplant is second for woman

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The doctor hears a strong heart beating inside Jamie Poindexter's chest.

"Hopefully this will be the last one," said Jamie.

You see, this is Jamie's third heart. Last week, she had her second heart transplant at Saint Luke's Mid-America Heart Institute. It was the 600th heart transplant there overall. The surgeon's scalpel followed the same path that one took years before.

"This one's a little harder, but I'm gettin' there," said Jamie.

We met Jamie in 2002. A virus had damaged her original heart. Jamie had spent two months in the hospital tethered to a pump to keep her alive until she got a new heart. She recovered beautifully.

"I'll be back. I'll be back," she said to the staff then.

Jamie thought she'd be back just for check-ups. Not another transplant. But two years ago, a valve was replaced in the transplanted heart. Jamie continued to go downhill. It turns out there was scarring in tiny vessels from what's called chronic rejection.

"There's no way we can demonstrate it until we took out her heart and replaced it with another one. Then we realized she had really severe blockages, so she probably just had weeks to live," said Dr. Andrew Kao.

This time, Jamie was at home in Pea Ridge, Arkansas, when she got the call. Her parents drove her to Kansas City for the transplant

"I was a little more scared this time. Older. Knew what I was facing to go through," said Jamie.

Only two percent of heart transplant recipients get a second transplant. Jamie is one of the rare few to have not one, but two heart donors.

"It's very special. It's hard to describe, but it does mean a lot to me," said Jamie.

So does the staff at Saint Luke's who she says are family. But Jamie looks forward to going home to Arkansas early next week.

Dr. Kao says chronic rejection shouldn't be a problem this time considering the advances in medications since Jamie's first transplant.

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