20 Years of Healthy New Hearts

Promise Magazine: Spring/Summer 2016

St. Paul’s celebrates performing life-saving heart transplants since 1996

The first heart transplant at the Provincial Centre for Excellence in Cardiac Care at St. Paul’s was performed 20 years ago, on September 5, 1996.

Dr. Andrew Ignaszewski, currently head of the Division of Cardiology at St. Paul’s, remembers those days (and nights) well: “We did five transplants by the end of that year. Dr. James Abel and I were the only ones doing them. I was on call for four years, day and night.”

Over the course of those first years, so many heart transplants were performed at St. Paul’s that the wait list was reduced to almost nothing, and St. Paul’s has been raising the bar for heart transplant programs ever since.

“We’re multi-specialty,” says Ignaszewski, pointing out that the transplant team includes not only cardiologists, surgeons and nurses, but also psychologists, exercise specialists, a social worker, a dietitian and a spiritual health practitioner.

“It is, we believe, the most advanced way of decision-making, when you include everybody,” says Ignaszewski, referring to how the transplant team uses many variables when receiving a patient, including medical, surgical and psychosocial.

Since that first fall day in 1996, there have been 324 heart transplant procedures performed at St. Paul’s. With the breakthrough work that continues at St. Paul’s today, transplant patients continue to live longer, healthier lives.