Metro man uses experiences to mentor others going through heart transplant process

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Not everyone gets second chances at life, but one man did. In fact, he even got a third.

Graduations, wedding anniversaries, playing golf, and hanging out with grandchildren, for Dwight Douglas those are life’s luxuries. He’s able to rack up those memories because of two heart transplants.

“My youngest grandson was born just five days after my transplant so it was a matter of who was going to get out of the hospital quicker, her or me,” said Douglas.

Douglas was only 56 when his heart failed and it was the doctor’s at St. Luke’s Hospital who offered him a lifeline.

“My ejection fraction was nine. Five is dead. I was that close. I flat lined. And they were able to get me back with one shock,” he said.

An ejection fraction is a measure of heart failure.

Under the Adult Heart Transplant Program doctors completed nearly 700 heart transplants since the first operation in 1985.

“That’s about 40 transplants a year. That puts us in the top ten percent in the country our of 110 transplant programs. So that’s a big number,” said Dr. Anthony Magalski of St. Lukes hospital.

Patients often live several decades with a transplanted heart. But Douglas’ second heart was dying just four years after the procedure. Magalski says Douglas is very lucky because two heart transplants aren’t common.

Douglas found a match the day of his daughter’s birthday.

“I actually didn’t have the transplant until 5:30 the next morning. So we share a birthday together,” said Douglas.

Now he’s using his experiences to help others go through the process. He’s already mentored 70 transplant patients.

This year, St. Luke’s will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most heart transplant recipients in one place. Duke University currently holds that record with 189.

The hospital is celebrating its 14th annual Cardiac Transplant Family Picnic on September 19, 2015 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  It will be held at Berkley Riverfront Park.

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