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Advancing Progress and Possibilities for a Healthier Future

A Rare Gift
Saves Two
Lives Through

In Charles’ case, his only hope for survival was a combined heart and liver transplant.

Benny and Charles (far right) meet for the first time. Benny’s cousin and sister and Charles’ wife (not pictured) joined in support.

Dr. Charles Williams, a physician who spent his U.S. Air Force medical career dedicated to the care of fellow service members and their families, received a grim diagnosis: Amyloidosis. It’s a rare genetic condition that causes abnormal proteins to build up in a patient’s organs, causing them to fail.

Although Charles’ liver had become dysfunctional in his own body, it could function properly in another individual — opening the door for Ochsner surgical teams to perform what’s called a domino transplant. In this extremely rare procedure, (only about five are performed in the U.S. each year), Charles’ liver could be transplanted into another patient while Charles received a new heart and liver from a deceased donor.

In transplant it’s really the generosity and the gift of the donor that makes life possible.

— Dr. John Seal

The domino transplant is challenging and complex and requires extremely close coordination between the two surgical teams. Dr. Aditya Bansal, Ochsner Surgical Director of Heart Transplant, directed Charles’ heart transplant surgery, while Dr. John Seal, an Ochsner abdominal transplant surgeon, led the team to replace the liver of transplant recipient Benny Capagnano, who was suffering from acute liver failure.

Months after the surgery, Charles and Benny met. There were tears and hugs and a new, unbreakable bond between the two men. “One of the things that drew me to transplant is this really unique human connection and human generosity that makes it all happen,” said Dr. Seal. “In transplant, it’s really the generosity and the gift of the donor that makes life possible.”

For the members of Ochsner’s multidisciplinary transplant team, the successful procedure was a remarkable and rewarding achievement. Notes Dr. Seal, “The preparation leading up to it, and the surgery the day of, were really exhilarating for the team. These are the types of challenges we come to work for every day.”