PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Oregon Health & Science University announced Thursday that it is reactivating its Heart Transplant Program.
Last summer, OHSU suspended the program after a vital specialist and two others from the team left. The suspension meant no new patients and no heart transplants for those on the waitlist.
During the suspension, Providence Health & Services took on patients from OHSU, including patients who had already had a heart transplant and needed continued care.
In Thursday's announcement, OHSU said "all of the support elements for the Heart Transplant Program remain in place." That includes heart transplant surgeons, nurses, coordinators and other staff.
Minutes before OHSU made the announcement, Providence announced a $75 million donation from Phil and Penny Knight to the Providence Heart Institute. That donation will help begin a heart transplant program at Providence.
"This represents one of the largest gifts ever made in this country to a non-university hospital," Dan Oseran, executive medical director at Providence Heart Institute, said.
The funds will be used to help patients like Todd Kruse, who is waiting for a heart transplant. The closest place he can go is Seattle.
Kruse says he had his first heart attack in 2007 at 38 years old.
"It was pretty massive and at that time, they only gave me two years," Kruse said.
After years of procedures to help treat his heart problems, Kruse still has to get tested in Seattle to see if he can get on a waiting list for a heart transplant.
"I'm still here, I got to walk my daughter down the aisle, got to have a birthday that I never thought I'd have," Kruse said.
Kruse is an example of many patients in Oregon who have had to go out of state for any hope of getting on a heart transplant waiting list.
When OHSU suspended it's program, administrators tell FOX 12 it worked with 20 patients on the waiting list to get care at other facilities.
Over the last several months, administrators say OHSU has been working to hire heart transplant failure cardiologists in order to reboot that part of the program.
Providence says it will be six months to a year before it can formally start the program. OHSU says it still has to make a few more hires before it can reactivate its program, but is looking to do that quickly.
Both organizations emphasize it's the patients' choice on where they receive care.
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