Victim of Heart Mix-Up Leaves Hospital

From Associated Press

A man given the wrong heart during a transplant operation walked out of the hospital Thursday in good spirits 11 days after a second operation to correct the mistake.

Greg Hamilton wore a T-shirt that said: “Heart Transplant 158 & 159.”

“I’m doing very well. I feel real good. I’m anxious to get home,” said Hamilton, 41, a landscaper from Oregon City.


“I want to go sit in my big chair that I always sit in at home and get my two cats and set them next to me and just sit there,” he said at a news conference before leaving Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital.

Hamilton, who has Type O blood, received a Type A heart on Aug. 14. Heart tissue must be type-matched or the recipient’s body is likely to reject the new organ.

The mistake was traced to a nurse at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Ida., who misidentified the donor’s blood type when she notified University Hospital that a heart was available.

Lab personnel at the Oregon hospital discovered the mix-up while examining a tissue sample hours into the transplant operation.

It was the first such mix-up at University Hospital, a regional transplant center whose heart replacement tally was touted on Hamilton’s shirt. Eight similar cases are known worldwide.

University Hospital has enacted stricter procedures to prevent a recurrence.

Hamilton’s wife, Mary, a 39-year-old elementary school principal, said she was shocked.

“It was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,”’ she said. “The next day I was a little bit angry and saying this was an inexcusable mistake. But then mistakes happen and you need to get on and forget that.

“I just concentrated on Greg getting well and I did the best I could to keep his spirits up,” she said.

Afterward, Hamilton was placed at the top of the regional list for the next available heart. The mismatched heart was removed Aug. 18 and replaced.

“I really didn’t expect it to come that soon,” Greg Hamilton said. “I was really excited just to get it done, get it over with, get it right, and get on the road to recovery.”

Dr. Adnan Cobanoglu, the heart transplant director at University Hospital, said there was no sign that Hamilton’s body had begun rejecting the mismatched heart.

“I’d like to look at it as if the first transplant didn’t occur,” Cobanoglu said.

“At this point I feel he is truly in top shape,” he added. “There’s no reason whatsoever why we shouldn’t be getting together with him five years, 10 years, 20 years down the line to celebrate an anniversary of the heart transplant procedure.”