A Washington man is the first person in the Pacific Northwest to willingly receive a heart from a donor with hepatitis C and be cured of the disease.
Kerry Hayes, from Anacortes, was born with a heart murmur due to a defect in his aortic valve, reported The Seattle Times.
His health slowly declined, resulting in four open-heart surgeries alone and the implantation of an artificial heart in 2017.
Hayes, 49, thought he would have to live with the artificial heart for the rest of his life until doctors at UW Medical Center in Seattle approached him with an unusual alternative.
Surgeons would implant heart from a donor infected with hepatitis C and, after the procedure, they would treat the disease with an eight-week antiviral regimen to cure him.
Kerry Hayes, 49 (pictured), from Anacortes, Washington, was born with a heart murmur due to a defect in his aortic valve
He had his first of four open-heart surgeries when he was 28 and was implanted with an artificial heart in 2017. In June 2018, doctors discussed with Hayes the possibility of receiving a donor heart that was infected with hepatitis C. Pictured: Hayes in the hospital with his wife in December 2017, left, and in the hospital in February 2017, right
The novel approach seemed like a breakthrough for Hayes, who has battled heart woes for 20 years.
Hayes was 28 years old when he had his first open-heart surgery.
In early 2017, his heart began failing so doctors implanted a total artificial heart until a suitable donor could be found.
The device circulates blood from the heart to the lungs and rest of the body and is controlled by an external machine.
Hayes said he was grateful to be alive but disliked being hooked to a machine 24/7.
‘It takes a lot of mental strength to live that way. Your whole body pulsates with artificial heart,’ he said in an interview with UW Medicine.
‘It’s in your ears. It’s loud inside and out. And I was starting to get to a point where I was getting worried about still having my job and my health insurance.’
In June 2018, doctors discussed with Hayes the possibility of receiving a donor heart that was infected with hepatitis C.
Hep C is a liver disease spread through blood-to-blood contact such as sharing needles, razors and toothbrushes and can be passed on at birth by infected mothers.
Hayes agreed to the protocol and, in July 2018, he received the donor heart. Two weeks later he was infected hepatitis C. Pictured: Hayes with his wife in December 2017, left, and in October 2018, right
In August, Hayes (pictured) began taking the antiviral Mavyret for eight weeks. By mid-December, tests showed that he was cured
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no vaccine for the disease unlike hepatitis A and B
Hayes’s doctors told him that hepatitis C has a 99 percent cure rate when treated, reported The Seattle Times.
‘At that point, it convinced me it was worth the risk,’ Hayes said. ‘I had to do something. Living with a total artificial heart is not a long-term cure.’
Two weeks later, a heart became available. On July 3, he underwent the transplant UW Medicine Medical Center.
Within two weeks, he developed hep C. In August, he began taking the antiviral Mavyret for eight weeks.
By mid-December, tests showed that he was cured.
The US Department of Health & Human Services estimates that around three million people are living in the US with chronic hep C, but most don’t feel any side effects.
Additionally around 17,000 new cases develop every year.
Using more organs from donors infected with hep C could mean more people receiving transplants who are having trouble finding a match.
Dr Jason Smith, a cardiac surgeon at UW Medicine, estimates the number of transplants done at the hospital could increase between 10 and 12 percent if recipients elect to receive hep C-positive organs. Pictured: Hayes (third from right) with his family
Hayes he’s happy to be be back and working and doing his favorite outdoor activities including hunting, fishing and riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle. Pictured: Hayes with his daughter, Kortney, left, and wife, Kristy, at UW Medical Center in October
‘If the recipient is Hep C positive, for example, then a Hep C organ donor could be matched with them,’ Dr David Wojciechowski, Director of Transplant Nephrology Clinical Research at Massachusetts General Hospital, told DailyMail.com last year.
‘Also, and this is being done under research protocol including here at Mass Gen, but Hep C has become much more treatable in recent years and we can still transplant an organ from a Hep C donor and treat the disease after transplant.’
Dr Jason Smith, a cardiac surgeon at UW Medicine, told The Seattle Times that three other patients have received hearts from donors infected with hep C since Hayes’s procedure.
He told the newspaper that he estimates the number of transplants done at the hospital could increase between 10 and 12 percent if recipients elect to receive hep C-positive organs.
‘We hope Mr Hayes’s positive outcome gives confidence to other transplant candidates who might benefit by opting into this protocol,’ Dr Smith said in an interview with UW Medicine.
‘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.’
As for Hayes, he said he’s happy to be be back and working and doing his favorite outdoor activities including hunting, fishing and riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle.
‘[The transplant] was totally worth the risk,’ he told UW Medicine. ‘The treatment was a piece of cake, nothing to be scared of’