DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Medical City Heart Hospital has become the first in Texas to transplant a heart using a new technique called donation after cardiac death (DCD).

The procedure took place on Thursday. The recipient, Yolanda Triplett, 50, had been on the transplant list since 2014 when strong treatments for breast cancer damaged her heart.

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After only a day, Triplett was out of bed, able to walk, and feeling the strongest she has felt in years.

“When I found out that I was getting a new heart, I was excited and nervous at the same time because I had waited so long for this,” said Triplett. “I thought it would never come and when it did, it hit me all of the sudden and I am so grateful for this wonderful gift.”

Yolanda Triplett, 50, with medical staff after receiving the first DCD heart transplant in Texas. (Credit: Medical City Heart Hospital)

While the American College of Cardiology believes the new procedure has the potential to increase the donor pool by up to 30%, some medical professionals have pointed out the ethical implications of DCD.

As a result, new guidelines have been created that hope to best guide physicians and patients about how to go about the process.

As with most organ transplants, traditional heart donations depend on the donor formally being declared brain dead.

Brain death occurs when a person on life support irreversibly loses all brain function, particularly the ability to breathe on their own.

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However, these rules also required that donors organs be alive at the time of death.

If a potential donor’s heart stopped due to natural causes or withdrawal of life support, they were ineligible for donation because there was no way to preserve the organ outside of the body.

The new technique utilizes a machine that keeps hearts immersed in warm blood after being removed, keeping the organ alive even after the person has died.

The DCD donors at Medical City suffered cardiac death after their hearts stopped following the withdrawal of life support.

Extensive laws about informed consent and eligibility ensure that DCD donors are aware of when the procedure can be performed and have previously explicitly stated when they give permission for doctors to withdraw care in an advance directive.

With these new guidelines in place, doctors are hopeful that many more lives can be saved.

“Many patients become too sick and die waiting for a heart,” says Brian Lima, MD, surgical director of heart transplantation and mechanical circulatory support at Medical City Heart Hospital. “The DCD heart transplant procedure could dramatically expand the donor pool in North Texas and give our team the opportunity to care for and improve more human lives.”

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CBSDFW.com Staff