Milestone hit with 400th B.C. heart transplant

Published in 24 Hours Vancouver | February 26, 2014 | Circulation: 280,000+

“I’m still a little bit sore from the operation, but that will be just a matter of time — I can feel my heart beat now.” — Marian Mazurek, heart transplant recipient

Some people wear their heart on their sleeve.

For one Port Coquitlam man, he had a chance to hold his heart in his hands.

Marian Mazurek, a 62-year-old with a deteriorating heart condition, had British Columbia’s 400th heart transplant on Dec. 20.

The elevator repairman said his maintenance work had become “more and more difficult” after years of cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease which left him at only 10% capacity and with no energy. Just before Christmas, he was considering quitting when the phone rang.

“They had found a possible match for me,” he said. The next day he went to St. Paul’s Hospital and a day later had a new heart.

One of the doctors told him his old heart was triple normal size, and Mazurek wanted to see for himself.

“The doctor showed me it,” he said with a chuckle. “I was actually holding it in my hands, and my wife took pictures.”

According to Transplant BC, the provincial agency overseeing organ donation, last year saw 23 heart transplants, a provincial record. Dr. Virginia Gudas performed B.C.’s first heart transplant in 1988.

Mazurek described his medical team — including Transplant BC lead physician Dr. Anson Cheung — as “people born to help others.”

“This achievement belongs to all of the people who have been involved in heart transplantation in the province,” Cheung said in a statement. “It’s impossible to reflect on the magnitude of this milestone without considering the people who are still waiting for a heart transplant.”

Asked about the other 400 recipients, Mazurek “couldn’t believe that so many people are like me.” He donated his old heart for research and hopes more people become donors.

“Without a donor, I don’t know how long I would have been able to live like that,” he said. “There are so many people who need this.”

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