Seton Marks 30 Years as Central Texas’ Only Heart Transplant Program

Mayor Adler will Join Local Heart Recipients at Today’s Celebration
Walter Stevens, 71, is a Vietnam War veteran who has faced his share of challenges. But perhaps none was greater than what he faced in 1991, when at the age of 46 he was diagnosed with heart failure and told a heart transplant was his only chance of survival.
Dr. John ‘Chip’ Oswalt, a cardiovascular surgeon with Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeons, performed the first heart transplant in 1986 at Seton and was also Stephens’ surgeon in 1991.
“When a person is in heart failure, it means the simple task of walking across the room causes complete exhaustion,” Oswalt said. “It’s been an honor and privilege to perform these procedures and see what a difference they make to our patients’ lives.”
Nearly 25 years later, Stevens is still grateful for his second chance at life. He received his new heart from a 15-year-old girl killed in a motor vehicle accident. Coincidently, Stevens’ daughter was the same age as his donor at the time of his transplant.
“I’m so grateful to my donor and her family and think about her every time I see my own daughter go through different stages of life,” Stevens said.
Since his life-saving transplant at the Seton Heart Specialty Care and Transplant Center at Seton Medical Center Austin, Stevens was able to return to work, spend time with his wife and daughter and can now watch his two grandchildren grow up.
Stevens is one of 389 patients who received transplanted hearts over the past 30 years at Seton Medical Center Austin. Seton Austin is the only Central Texas hospital performing these life-saving procedures.
Heart transplant recipients, including Stephens, and Seton doctors, nurses and other employees will celebrate this milestone onFriday, Feb. 12 at 11 a.m. in McFadden Auditorium at Seton Medical Center Austin, 1201 W. 38th St. 
Austin Mayor Steve Adler will present a proclamation and speak to employees at the event.
“This is an extremely exciting time at Seton to celebrate three decades of heart transplants, not only because of the hundreds of lives we’ve saved, but also because of the newer technologies and innovations we’re able to implement to help our patients,” Dr. Ernest Haeusslein, Seton Heart Specialty Care and Transplant Center medical director, said.
In addition, Seton Austin is recognized for implanting ventricular assist devices (VADs). A VAD is a pump that helps the heart circulate blood through the body. VADs have been used in the treatment of end-stage heart failure for over two decades as a bridge to heart transplants, and more recently as permanent support for “destination therapy” patients, who are not transplant candidates. Surgery is required to implant a VAD, which can be placed inside or outside the body.
Seton Austin is the only Central Texas hospital to earn Joint Commission certification for a Destination Therapy Ventricular Assist Device Program and Heart Transplant Certification from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Haeusslein stressed there is still a significant shortage of organ donors. Currently, 20 people are on Seton’s waiting list for a heart transplant. Last year, Seton performed 20 heart transplants and is projected to perform the same number this year.
About Seton Healthcare Family
Seton Healthcare Family, a member of Ascension, is a faith-based non-profit health care system founded in 1902 by the Daughters of Charity. Called to be a sign of God’s unconditional love for all, Seton strives to expand access to high-quality, low-cost, person-centered care and services.
Seton operates more than 100 clinical locations, including four teaching hospitals that will be training sites for Dell Medical School at The University of Texas starting in 2016. One of those training sites is a world-class pediatric medical center with its own Level I trauma center. Seton conducts research in the prevention and treatment of stroke, traumatic injury, epilepsy and cardiovascular disease.
Seton collaborates with employers, commercial insurance companies, community physicians, nonprofit agencies and government entities to create clinically integrated systems of care with providers throughout its 10,000-square-mile service area. Partners in providing health care include the Austin Independent School District; the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians; and Central Health. An example of innovative health care delivery is Seton’s and Central Health’s Community Care Collaborative, a unique and ambitious integrated delivery system for Travis County residents living at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
Seton employs almost 12,800 and is a major contributor to the Central Texas economy. Over the past decade, Seton has donated $2.9 billion in care and $2 billion in community benefit with help from generous donors and volunteers.
About Ascension
Ascension ( is a faith-based healthcare organization dedicated to transformation through innovation across the continuum of care. As the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system, Ascension is committed to delivering compassionate, personalized care to all with special attention to persons in poverty and struggling the most. In FY2015, Ascension provided nearly $2 billion in care of persons living in poverty and other community benefit programs. Approximately 150,000 associates and 35,000 aligned providers serve in 1,900 sites of care – including 129 hospitals and more than 30 senior living facilities – in 24 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to healthcare delivery, Ascension subsidiaries provide a variety of services and solutions, including physician practice management, venture capital investing, treasury management, biomedical engineering, clinical care management, information services, risk management and contracting through Ascension’s own group purchasing organization.

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