A transplant story spans continents: A Texas man’s remarkable heart journey

Heart Health

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Feb 9, 2024

Wayne Germano had his first cardiac bypass procedure when he was 43 years old. Following more than 23 years of heart-stopping cardiac episodes that nearly cost him his life, in October 2023, the 66-year-old received a new heart at Baylor University Medical Center.

While being a heart transplant recipient is miraculous in itself, Wayne’s personal connection to the South American country of Peru makes it even more special. In a twist of fate, two small cities in Peru’s jungle produced the world-class medical specialists who played pivotal roles in Wayne’s treatment and care.

Wayne, executive director of a pediatric eye center in El Paso, Texas, wasn’t surprised when his heart issues began in the late 1990s as both his mother and father had a history of heart disease. A few years later, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF) and underwent a quadruple cardiac bypass operation in south Texas at 43 years old.

In 2018, a collapse at the El Paso airport required his daughter to administer CPR until paramedics were able to shock her father’s heart back to life. He was rushed to the hospital and received an implantable cardiac defibrillator, a small battery-powered device that is surgically implanted under the skin to monitor heart rhythm and deliver electrical shocks to restore normal heart rhythm when necessary.

In June 2023, Wayne’s wife, Violeta Radenovich, MD a pediatric ophthalmic surgeon from Tingo Maria, Peru, noticed her husband was stressed, tired and not looking well. He experienced a ventricular tachycardia storm (recurring episodes of rapid, abnormal heart beats) at home. His wife performed CPR to resuscitate him, and he was referred to a cardiologist in El Paso—who also happened to be a native of Peru.

Journey to a new heart

After running numerous tests, including a cardiac CT scan, the medical team said Wayne’s heart was so enlarged it needed immediate attention. They referred him to Aldo E. Rafael MD, a cardiovascular surgeon who specializes in end-stage heart failure treatment, on the medical staff of Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Dallas.

Dr. Rafael is a native of La Merced, Peru, a small city in the Peruvian jungle, only a few miles from where Dr. Radenovich grew up. In 2022, Dr. Rafael was named Peruvian of the Year by Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the life-saving cardiac care he provides in his medical mission trips to the people of Peru.

Dr. Rafael’s extensive evaluation of Wayne, including a heart catheterization, resulted in a sobering diagnosis: The years of battling CHF had taken its toll on his heart, and he needed a heart transplant. Wayne was placed on the transplant list on a Thursday. He received his new heart the following Tuesday.

Dr. Rafael is medical director of the Hispanic Cardiovascular Institute at Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Dallas. The Hispanic Cardiovascular Institute is an outreach program utilizing physicians and clinics in Texas cities such as Amarillo, El Paso and Lubbock, to provide Hispanic populations with a higher level of cardiac care through interventions for complex cardiovascular issues. The El Paso physician who referred Wayne had connected with Dr. Rafael through the Institute.

“I was pleased to get Mr. Germano as a patient since his wife is from Peru and the referral came from a Peruvian cardiologist in El Paso,” said Dr. Rafael. “It was emotional for me.”

A promising heart transplant prognosis

After the seven-plus hour operation, Wayne’s prognosis is good, according to Dr. Rafael.

“Heart transplant recipients have survival rates of 91% after one year, 82% after two years and 75% after five years,” he said. “I think his survival is going to be great. His last echocardiogram showed his heart function is normal. His case is an example of the benefit the Hispanic Cardiovascular Institute provides to patients with complex cardiac problems who need a higher level of care than is available in the communities where they live.”

To say Wayne and his wife are pleased with the care he received at Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Dallas and Baylor University Medical Center, part of Baylor Scott & White Health, is an understatement.

“I can’t say enough good things about how caring they were, how organized they were,” Wayne said. “You won’t find a better facility or doctors. If you’re going to have heart problems, have them taken care of here. It makes a difference to seek treatment at a center that strictly specializes in caring for a specific type of illness such as heart disease.”

Wayne is proud to say that he, and his new heart, are survivors.

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