Seton hits milestone, saving 400 lives at heart transplant center

Amber Martin says she got a second shot at life after receiving a new heart
Amber Martin says she got a second shot at life after receiving a new heart (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For 30 years Seton has been giving patients a second chance at life in their operating rooms. Now they’ve reached a milestone, successfully completing their 400th heart transplant at the Seton Heart Specialty Care and Transplant Center.

The 400th heart went to Amber Martin, a 29-year-old military wife and mother of two, from Fort Hood.

She was born with congenital cardiomyopathy and surgeries began at age four to mend the heart defect.

“Throughout my teenage years I was always really tired, I’d be the one behind everyone else,” remembers Martin. “When I was 15 they had to go in and repair it again, and after that I developed an arrhythmia.”

This year, her heart was beyond repair and she needed a new one. Doctors told her to expect an 8 to 10 month wait for a donor match, but it only took three weeks. A donor heart matched her better than others on the list.

“To have this opportunity to give me that extra time with my family, it’s kind of like being reborn, giving me that second chance at life, it’s amazing,” said Martin. Her surgery was successful, and she continues to get stronger every day.
But too many people are waiting too long for organs they need to stay alive. According to the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, every 12 minutes a person is added to the list of needing a heart transplant. In Texas there are about 11,000 people waiting and in the United States roughly 112,000.

“It’s a very difficult time in any family or individual’s life when they have to make that decision to donate, but it also affects  a number of people potentially,” said Ernest Haeusslein, Medical Director of Seton Heart Specialty Care and Transplant Center.

Right now 20 people at Seton are on the waiting list for a heart.

“Being the 400th patient, I couldn’t have done that without donors,” said Martin. “I’m so grateful for my donor and their family.”

She urges people to consider registering to become a donor. In addition to organs like the heart, tissue that can be donated includes the eyes, skin, bone, heart valves and tendons.

Martin hopes to one day give that gift back to other families, and hopes people listening to her story will too.

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