History was made on Feb. 2, 1984, when Boston’s first heart transplant took place at the Brigham. The patient was Gerald Boucher, 43, a pharmacist from South Hadley.
“The first heart transplant helped bring divergent specialists together,” said Gilbert Mudge, MD, who started the Brigham heart transplant program. “For the first time, people began to say that the hospital was truly bigger than the sum of its parts.”
In honor of American Heart Month, the Brigham community is reflecting on what this historic milestone meant to the Brigham and the field of medicine.
“I remember that day and the following weeks,” said one respondent in a post on the Brigham’s Facebook page about the first heart transplant. “Regardless of where you worked at BWH, there was excitement.”
In a 2006 Brigham Bulletin story, the late Lawrence Cohn, MD, former senior cardiac surgeon, who participated in the first heart transplant, reflected on the historic event.
“There weren’t many heart transplant teams in the country,” Cohn said. “We had the right team, the right enthusiasm, the right support from the hospital and the right patient.”
The Brigham’s Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program is the oldest and largest in New England. Since performing the first and second successful heart transplants in New England in 1984, the program has completed more than 600 transplants. Instrumental to that success is the passionate and experienced multidisciplinary team.
“I was one of the nurses in the ‘cardiothoracic’ surgery ICU that cared for him. Exciting times!” said another respondent in a Brigham Instagram post about the first heart transplant.
Another commenter recalled when the helicopter transporting the donor heart landed at nearby Wentworth Institute. Former Brigham cardiothoracic surgeon Richard Shemin, MD, was there to collect the heart in a Playmate cooler. Later, Shemin, Cohn, Mudge and John Collins, MD, received engraved Playmate coolers in celebration of the milestone.
“A step forward for mankind,” said another respondent.