You might say the Tuesday, December 12, meeting of the Baylor Health Care System Foundation was an affair of the heart. That’s because the featured speakers were Dr. Shelley A. Hall—chief of transplant cardiology and mechanical circulatory support and heart failure for Baylor Scott And White Health—along with one of Baylor’s best-known heart-transplant recipients. But, more on that later.
While the foundation board chair, Norm Bagwell, was unavoidably absent, there was the usual robust turnout for the quarterly luncheon at the Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center. Among those attending were Erle Nye, Julie Turner, Richard Holt, Tucker Enthoven, Pierce Allman, Kathy Crow, Kristen Hinton, Barry Andrews, Margo Goodwin, Keenan Delaney, Nancy Dedman, Tavia Hunt, Tom Dunning, Christi Urschel, Ken Schnitzer, Shannon Skokos and Michal Powell. Following the welcome by foundation President Rowland K. Robinson, Michal and Pat McEvoy were announced as co-chairs of the 2018 Celebrating Women luncheon—with Shelle Sills serving as underwriting chair—before Michal delivered the invocation.
Then it was time for Susan McSherry to update the guests on foundation business. Susan reported that the 16th annual Grand Rounds Golf Tournament had raised more than $350,000, and that 2017’s Celebrating Women Luncheon with actress Jamie Lee Curtis had raked in more than $1.8 million. Meantime, board giving for the year was sitting at 36 percent, Susan said, adding, “I know we can do better than that!”
Robin took the podium next and noted the sad recent passings of Al Hill Jr. and Ruth Altshuler, both good friends of the Baylor system. He also gave a shout-out to luncheon guest Dr. Bob Gunby Jr., who in November had delivered the first baby born in the U.S. to a mother who’d received a uterus transplant. Both the birth and the transplant took place at Baylor University Medical Center.
Robin then introduced Hall, who is nationally recognized in the heart transplant community. The Cape Cod, Massachusetts, native participates in multiple trials, both national and international, and has created a leading clinical program here. She focuses on “advanced heart failure” in the sickest patients, she said, and gets involved when the heart’s not doing its job: “I’m the doctor you don’t want to see.”
Baylor Scott And White Health’s heart transplant program is the biggest in Texas, Hall said, though there is “still a severe donor shortage.” In 2016 53 Baylor patients were assisted by the ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) system—one of the big heart/lung bypass machines was on display at the front of the room—and more than 100 patients were being helped by some sort of ventricular assist device, she added.
With that Hall brought up Terry and Tim Gallagher, who together told how Tim had been the 100th recipient of a successful heart transplant at Baylor Scott And White during 2014. Tim, who owns a successful toll-tag company in Dallas, recalled that, in late November of that year, he was feeling good, having just dropped 25 pounds to be “the fittest I’d been in 20 years.”
But then, working out at his home gym, he suffered a type of heart attack so severe it’s referred to as “the widow-maker.”
“I felt fatigued,” Tim remembered at the luncheon. “I laid back on the bed and felt pressure on my chest. I called my wife.” Added Terri: “He said, ‘I think I’m having a heart attack!’ Our son Greyson called 9-1-1. We heard a scream. [Tim] was passed out on the floor.”
The left ventricle in his heart was so completely blocked, Tim easily could have died that day. Instead, he was transported for some extraordinary care to Baylor University Medical Center. There, he was hooked up to an ECMO machine and, eventually, placed on the transplant list with “1A” status. The “1A” meant he probably wouldn’t survive more than a week without receiving a heart transplant.
The very next day after his name was placed on the list, “I got a call telling us we had a donor,” Terri said, her eyes welling up with tears at the memory. The transplant operation was successfully performed on Dec. 22.
On April 21—more than three years after the 2014 surgery—the Gallaghers will serve as co-chairs and gala chair for the American Heart Association Dallas’ 2018 Dallas Côtes du Coeur event series, the nation’s largest Heart Ball. “Statistically,” Tim summed up poignantly as the quarterly meeting drew to a close, “I think I’m a miracle.”
* Photo provided by Baylor Health Care System Foundation