A 58-year-old man who underwent a transplant with a genetically modified pig heart about six weeks ago has died, the University of Maryland Medical Center reported Tuesday.
Lawrence Faucette had been making progress after the surgery, going to physical therapy and spending time with family, even playing cards with his wife. But he showed signs in recent days that his body was rejecting the heart, a common complication in traditional transplants. He died Monday, officials said.
“We mourn the loss of Mr. Faucette, a remarkable patient, scientist, Navy veteran and family man who just wanted a little more time to spend with his loving wife, sons, and family,” said Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, who surgically transplanted the pig heart, in a statement.
“Mr. Faucette’s last wish was for us to make the most of what we have learned from our experience, so others may be guaranteed a chance for a new heart when a human organ is unavailable,” said Griffith, a professor in transplant surgery and clinical director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Faucette was only the second person to be given a modified pig heart. Both surgeries were done at the hospital in Baltimore, a major transplant center that has sought alternatives to make up for a shortage of organs.
There are more than 100,000 people on the organ waiting list, mostly for kidneys, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the nonprofit that oversees transplants. Many people die waiting for an organ.
Faucette was in end-stage heart failure when he arrived at the hospital Sept. 14. His condition at the time of surgery disqualified him from a traditional transplant, officials said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had given emergency authorization to do the pig heart transplant.
Doctors expressed gratitude to Faucette and his family for participating in the surgery that they believe advances what is known about the use of animal organs in humans. Officials said an extensive analysis of the procedure is underway.
The first patient to receive a modified pig heart transplant was David Bennett Sr., who officials said did not reject the heart but died of heart failure two months after the procedure.
Pig kidneys have been transplanted at other hospitals, and scientists have experimented with other animal hearts in humans. But such procedures are not standard.
Faucette’s wife, Ann Faucette, said in a statement he hoped to contribute to the science of transplantation to benefit others down the road.
“He knew his time with us was short, and this was his last chance to do for others,” she said. “He never imagined he would survive as long as he did, or provide as much data to the xenotransplant program.”
She said he was appreciative of the doctors and nurses who cared for him, as well as Bennett, “for being No.1.”