Monday, April 25, 2016
"On March 9, 1981, just minutes past midnight, Mary Gohlke, a 45-year-old Arizona woman dying of primary pulmonary hypertension, was wheeled into a Stanford Hospital operating room for a heart-lung transplant surgery that would become a medical milestone.
"Lung transplants were technically feasible, but no human lung transplant patient had survived more than 23 days. The only antirejection drugs then approved for use interfered with the healing of the surgical wounds where new lungs connected to the patient’s airway. After Gohlke read a newspaper story about the successful heart-lung transplants Stanford cardiothoracic surgeon Bruce Reitz, MD, had done on rhesus monkeys, she telephoned him. Reitz took the call. She asked him how many heart-lung transplants he planned to do that year on humans. He said 10. She told him she’d like to be the tenth so she “could see how the rest of them turn out,” and Reitz responded with a chuckle.
"The holdup, however, was the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It had approved a better antirejection drug, cyclosporin A, for heart-transplant patients, but not for other transplant patients. Stanford had asked the FDA to approve cyclosporin A for heart-lung transplant patients, too — and then waited and waited. Gohlke, increasingly desperate, asked her former boss, the executive editor of the Mesa Tribune, to help. He made calls to then-U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Arizona, and about an hour later the FDA approved the drug for use in heart-lung transplantation at all qualified hospitals. Gohlke received her new heart and lungs — becoming the first patient in the world to undergo a successful heart-lung transplant — and lived for five years with her new organs."