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Michael Dickinson, a cardiologist and medical director for heart transplants at Spectrum Health. Michael Dickinson, a cardiologist and medical director for heart transplants at Spectrum Health. COURTESY PHOTO

Spectrum Health surpasses 100 heart and lung transplants

BY Monday, January 08, 2018 02:57pm

Surpassing 100 procedures for both heart and lung transplants shows the steady progress made in the programs Spectrum Health launched earlier this decade.

On Dec. 24, 2017, Surgeons at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital performed the 100th heart transplant on a patient from Stevensville, 42-year-old Ascenda Denton, and the 100th lung transplant Dec. 27 on 62-year-old Elain Slikkers of Holland. Both are reported in good condition.

Achieving the milestone for each procedure is “kind of a symbol that both programs are mature and that they’re here to stay,” said Michael Dickinson, a cardiologist and medical director for heart transplants at Spectrum Health.

“A hundred is just a number, but it’s a nice round number that gives us a chance to pause, reflect and be thankful,” Dickinson said. “It’s one thing to start a new program with people wondering whether we would be successful, was the business here to have a sustained program, and was the organization committed enough to the resources necessary to make truly mature, full-scale programs?

“To have 100 heart transplants and 100 lung transplants shows both of the programs now are mature.”

Spectrum Health performed its first heart transplant in November 2010 and launched lung transplants in February 2013. The health system said it performed 15 heart transplants and 26 lung transplants in 2017.

When Spectrum sought and secured state certificate-of-need approval from the state to launch both transplants, its goal was to provide the procedures locally and alleviate the need for patients requiring a transplant and their families to travel to Chicago or southeast Michigan.

Transplants in Michigan were previously done only at University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor and at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

“Our goal was to offer these complex procedures in West Michigan so patients could receive transplants close to home where they have the support of their family and friends,” said Tina Freese Decker, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Spectrum Health.

In 2016, Spectrum Health Richard DeVos Heart & Lung Transplant Program transplanted 22 lungs and 20 hearts. U of M Health System performed 32 heart and 36 lung transplants, and Henry Ford 23 heart and 19 lungs.

Transplant patients have come from across the state. Spectrum Health considers areas outside of southeast Michigan as its market from which to draw transplant patients, and has begun receiving requests from outside of Michigan.

Performing 15 to 20 heart transplants and 20 to 30 lungs annually is “really right where we want to be,” Dickinson said.

Spectrum Health now is working to finalize a contract to secure designation from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the state’s largest health insurer, as a preferred center for lung transplants, Dickinson said. Spectrum Health has already secured the designation for heart transplants.

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