Social distancing is a new concept for many of us right now during our citywide shelter-in-place due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). But for those who are organ transplant patients, social distancing and self-isolation is all too familiar.

April is Donate Life Month, and we at Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeons (CTVS) in Austin hold a special place in our hearts for and honor all the grateful transplant patients and their selfless organ donors with whom they are forever linked.

According to Donate Life America, another person is added to the waiting list for an organ transplant every 10 minutes in the United States. Meanwhile, 22 people die each day because they did not receive an organ in time.

The most commonly transplanted organs in the U.S. are the kidney, liver, heart and lungs.

At CTVS, our board-certified cardiothoracic surgeons specialize in heart transplantation. Our group was the first to perform a heart transplant in Central Texas back in 1986, and CTVS surgeons have performed 456 heart transplant surgeries at Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin, the region’s only heart transplant center.

Following heart transplantation, or any other organ donation, a patient’s immunity is severely compromised. They must be extremely careful for months afterwards to avoid getting sick while their body is adjusting to the new organ.

Therefore our patients who have undergone heart transplant surgery are already veterans of social distancing, and they could teach us all a thing or two.

KEYE-TV (CBS) recently did a story about social distancing and heart transplant patients with Dr. Hunter Kirkland and his patient, Lemuel Bradshaw.

“They’re extremely vulnerable because they’re all on immune-suppressant medications to keep them from rejecting their organs that have been implanted,” Dr. Kirkland told KEYE.

CTVS surgeon Dr. William Kessler and one of his patients was also recently featured in an Austin American-Statesman story.

For now, the advice that Dr. Kessler would give to any of his heart transplant patients bodes well for us today:

  • Keep a safe distance between yourself and others

  • Wash your hands regularly

  • Do not hug people or shake hands

  • Wear a mask to protect yourself

  • Never leave home without hand sanitizer

To learn more about organ donation and if you are a good candidate, check out these common FAQs.

For questions about any of our cardiac services, please visit or call us at (512) 459-8753 to schedule an appointment.

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