First Heart-Liver Transplant Patient in Metro Detroit Heads Home

April 17, 2014

DETROIT – Mother of three Karen Haines, the first heart-liver transplant patient in metro Detroit, said she’s excited to go home just over two weeks after her March 31 surgery at Henry Ford Hospital.

“Of course, I’m not 100%, but I’m working on it,” says Haines, 59, of Okemos, who is also a grandmother of four. “I put all my confidence in my doctors at Henry Ford, and they did an amazing job.”

Haines guided UPS planes in and out of Capital Region International Airport in Lansing before cardiomyopathy diagnosed in 2005 forced her to quit. She started noticing shortness of breath as she walked from ramp to ramp and while doing routine things at home. Doctors believe a virus caused the infection that affected her heart’s ability to pump properly.

As her heart function deteriorated, doctors told her she did not qualify for a heart transplant because she tested positive for Hepatitis C. Doctors said she most likely contracted the virus in 1988 through a blood transfusion during treatment of complications from pregnancy.

Fortunately for Haines, doctors developed a cure for Hepatitis C. She underwent treatment from September through December, 2014. But despite the cure, her doctors worried that hidden damage from the Hepatitis C virus might someday affect her liver. The United Network for Organ Sharing, which coordinates organ donation in the United States, reports only one other heart-liver transplant has been performed in Michigan, a pediatric transplant in 2010.

“The Henry Ford Transplant Institute heart and liver teams determined a dual transplant – including a healthy liver -- would be the best option for Karen,” said Henry Ford transplant surgeon Jamil Borgi, M.D. “Despite the rare nature of such a procedure, our surgeons are very experienced in both types of transplants. The operation went very smoothly.”

World-renowned liver surgeon Marwan Abouljoud, M.D., director of the Henry Ford Transplant Institute, credits seamless teamwork at Henry Ford Hospital – and Karen’s positive spirit – for her quick recovery.

“We’re very excited to see Karen go home with such energy and enthusiasm,” says Abouljoud. “Her recovery and return to her family is the best reward.”

Haines said she hopes to someday meet her organ donor’s family.

“I hope I do them proud because I feel a lot better,” says Haines, who hopes to talk to others about the importance of organ donation.

The Henry Ford Transplant Institute has long been recognized as a leader in the United States, always looking for new ways to provide organ transplant to patients who cannot be helped by other centers.

As pioneers in the field, Henry Ford Hospital offers Michigan’s most comprehensive multi-organ transplant center, performing heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas, intestine and multivisceral transplants and bone marrow stem cell transplants. Each team uses advanced, minimally invasive and robotic surgical technology for living donors and transplant patients.

The Henry Ford Transplant Institute also offers ongoing clinical trials, including new medications to help delay the need for organ transplants, as well as to improve outcomes after transplant by reducing infection and organ rejection.

For more information, visit Henry Ford Transplant Institute.

Tammy Battaglia
(248) 881-0809
[email protected]