Spectrum Health Completes 100th Lung and 100th Heart Transplants During Four-Day Span in Late December

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Jan. 8, 2018 – Spectrum Health’s Richard DeVos Heart & Lung Transplant Program reached significant milestones in late December, with transplant teams completing the program’s 100th heart and 100th lung transplants within days of one another.

Ascenda Denton, 42, of Stevensville, Michigan, the lung recipient, and Elaine Slikkers, 62, of Holland, Michigan, the heart recipient, are both in good condition and are recovering at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.

Slikkers, a 32-year veteran of the Holland Public Safety Services department, had been listed for transplant since August. She suffered a heart attack on Christmas Day, 2013, and was subsequently diagnosed with cardiac sarcoidosis, a rare condition that targets white blood cells in the heart and can cause irregular heartbeat. Denton, who was listed for transplant for less than three weeks, suffers from cystic fibrosis, a condition that can cause chronic bacterial infections, inflammation and scarring in the lungs, which eventually leads to a loss of function. (For more information about Elaine Slikkers, read her story and download photos and video at Spectrum Health Beat ‘My very own heart’ – photo credit: Spectrum Health Beat).

Spectrum Health’s Richard DeVos Heart & Lung Transplant Program, founded in 2010, completed its first heart transplant in November, 2010, and its first lung transplant in February, 2013. It is the only program in the state to carry out combined heart/lung transplants in the past 18 years, completing one in 2013 and another in 2015.

Spectrum Health officials stressed the importance of community support, expertise and teamwork in building the program, which is the only program of its kind located on the west side of the state.

“This milestone marks an accomplishment for our outstanding team and the life-changing care they provide to our patients in West Michigan,” said Tina Freese Decker, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Spectrum Health. “Our goal was to offer these complex procedures in West Michigan so patients could receive transplants close to home where they have the support of their family and friends. I am so proud of our exceptional transplant team and their dedication to making this a high-quality program on behalf of our patients. This is also a testament to the invaluable support of our philanthropic donors and the West Michigan community that placed its confidence and trust in our program.”

A surgical team led by Edward Murphy, MD, completed the minimally-invasive bilateral lung transplant on December 24, the program’s 100th lung transplant. Dr. Murphy was assisted by Andrew Sporte, RN, Jared Slenk, RN, and anesthesiologists, Andrew Baudo, MD, and Daniel Nadeau, MD. The organ recovery team was led by Charles Willekes, MD, and included transplant call specialist Dennis Junga. The team also carried out the program’s 101st lung transplant later that day.

On December 27, a surgical team led by Theodore Boeve, MD, and Marzia Leacche, MD, completed the program’s 100th heart transplant. They were assisted by Bethany Hammer, RN, Josh Smith, RN, and anesthesiologists Mark Wedder, DO, and Matthew Parlmer, DO. The organ recovery team was led by Tomasz Timek, MD, who was assisted by Jeff Sutliff of Michigan Gift of Life, and included transplant call specialist Kari Hibbard.

“I know I speak for our entire team when I say how honored we are to do this work for our patients,” said Dr. Boeve, Richard DeVos Endowed Director for Heart & Lung Transplant Surgery & Mechanical Circulatory Support. “Our team is grateful to Fred and Lena Meijer and the many other community donors who supported this beautiful facility, which is not just a great work environment, but helps us recruit and retain world class physician talent. We are also grateful to Richard and Helen DeVos for a gift that provided the cornerstone of our heart and lung transplant program.”

“These gifts were intended to help provide excellent medical care to our community,” Dr. Boeve added. “And we have assembled a tremendous team that is committed to delivering excellence in all forms of cardiac, vascular and thoracic surgery.”

Spectrum Health’s Richard DeVos Heart & Lung Transplant Program is one of three programs in Michigan offering heart and lung transplantation for adult patients facing serious end-stage heart and lung failure. It forms part of Spectrum Health’s Frederik Meijer Heart & Vascular Institute, which brings together cardiovascular expertise in clinical care, research and education. The program also offers expertise in implantation of Left Ventricle Assist Device (LVAD), a surgically-placed, battery operated pump that takes over when congestive heart failure reaches end-stage heart failure. The program has implanted more than 350 LVADs to date. Many of these patients go on to receive a heart transplant.

As Spectrum Health celebrates its 100th heart and lung transplants, there are still 116,000 men, women and children in need of an organ transplant in the U.S. Are you a registered donor? Please consider giving the Gift of Life.



People are at the heart of everything we do, and the inspiration for our long and continuing legacy of strong community partnerships, philanthropy and transparency. Our award-winning team improves health, inspires hope and saves lives across 13 counties in West Michigan. We bring together 11 hospitals—including Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, with expert care from 350+ pediatric specialists in 70+ specialties and programs—three rehabilitation and nursing centers, 120 outpatient sites and telehealth services. We are proud to work with 4,000 physicians and advanced practice providers, including Spectrum Health Medical Group, one of the largest and most comprehensive multispecialty physician groups in West Michigan.

Tim Hawkins
Media Relations
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