Arizona man who received first ‘heart in a box’ transplant celebrates 50th wedding anniversary

"Heart in a Box" is a game-changer for transplants including Jeff Robinson.
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 5:09 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2023 at 6:11 PM MST
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LAKE HAVASU CITY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A man from Lake Havasu City was saved by breakthrough technology used for the first time in Arizona, a ‘heart in a box.’ We first told you about the procedure in December. The ‘heart in a box’ is a game changer for transplants since it doesn’t rely on the donor to be ‘brain dead’ to recover the organ. The recipient Jeff Robinson said he feels like a new man after receiving the new heart. “I feel blessed to have the second chance,” said Robinson. “I’m able to walk farther.”

The device brings the vital organ back to life from the donor and can keep it out of the body far longer than the previous four hours on ice. “We go from the four hour window to six, seven, in some instances nine hours,” said Dr. Brian Hardaway who is Jeff’s cardiologist and Medical Director of Heart Transplants. “In a situation where someone has suffered a circulatory death, those traditionally have not been offered to programs for potential transplantation, those are donors we have not heard about,” said Dr. Hardaway. “That opens up the pool significantly.”

Jeff will now be able to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife, Trish. “Everything has been unbelievable, I don’t even know what to say, Jeff’s got a new heart we came home with a new, we’re going to be married 50 years, that was a lifetime ago, I feel like we’ve lived four lifetimes,” said Trish.

Two more ‘heart in a box’ transplants have been performed at Mayo Clinic. Right now, there are 47 people on the heart transplant list in Arizona, according to the Donor Network of Arizona.