The second person in history who received a genetically-modified pig heart transplant has died six weeks after the experimental surgery, the hospital that performed the operation said Tuesday.
Lawrence Faucette, 58, patient suffered from terminal heart disease. He received the transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center on September 20 and went on to live for six weeks.
We mourn the loss of Mr. Faucette, a remarkable patient, scientist, Navy veteran, and family man who just wanted a little more time to spend with his loving wife, sons, and family,” Bartley P. Griffith, MD, who surgically transplanted the pig heart into Faucette, said in a news release from the University of Maryland Medical Center.
The release noted Faucette made “significant progress” following the surgery. While the heart seemed healthy for the first month, it recently started showing signs of rejection.
The hospital said Faucette died Monday.
Faucette’s wife, Ann, praised doctors and staff for their hard work and dedication to her husband. She also said she was proud of her husband and his bravery throughout his medical journey.
“He knew his time with us was short, and this was his last chance to do for others,” she noted in the release. “He never imagined he would survive as long as he did, or provide as much data to the xenotransplant program. He was a man who was always thinking of others, especially myself and his two sons. The kindness and selfless acts of others were not unnoticed. Larry was consistently telling the nurses, support staff, and doctors how much he appreciated what they were doing for him. He was not only thinking about how this journey was helping to advance the xenotransplant program, but how it affected his family. An example is his last night when he was lying in the bed contemplating the end and worrying about his sister and if she had slept yet. Larry’s family continues to be in awe of the man that he was and how he has shaped our lives. He can never be forgotten.”
The hospital said Faucette arrived at the University of Maryland Medical Center as a patient on September 14. At that time, he was in end-stage heart failure.
The release noted he was deemed ineligible for a traditional heart transplant due to advanced medical conditions.
But the US Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency authorization for the surgery in hopes of extending his life. Doctors said the transplanted heart “performed very well without any evidence of rejection during the first month of recovery.” He began physical therapy and working toward regaining his ability to walk.
“This is a monumental achievement, and it takes Herculean efforts to move the transplant field forward,” said Christine Lau, MD, MBA, the Dr. Robert W. Buxton Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery at UMSOM and Surgeon-in-Chief at UMMC. “Lung transplants took decades to perfect, and the giants of those days carried a lot on their shoulders. Drs. Griffith, Mohiuddin and their entire treatment team, as well as Mr. Faucette and his family, are our heroes of today.”
While Faucette loved ones thanked the physicians and hospital staff, they thanked Faucette for his impact on them, as well as the medical industry as a whole.
“We cannot express enough gratitude to Mr. Faucette and his family for enabling us to continue to make significant advancements towards making xenotransplants a reality,” Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, MD, Professor of Surgery and Scientific/Program Director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at UMSOM, said. “Mr. Faucette was a scientist who not only read and interpreted his own biopsies but who understood the important contribution he was making in advancing this field. As with the first patient, David Bennett, Sr., we intend to conduct an extensive analysis to identify factors that can be prevented in future transplants; this will allow us to continue to move forward and educate our colleagues in the field on our experience.”