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Condition of Transplant Patients Improves; They Begin Physical Therapy

May 15, 1987

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A cystic fibrosis patient who got a new heart and lungs, and the man who got his healthy heart, were upgraded to satisfactory condition Friday as they began physical therapy, a spokeswoman said.

John Couch, 38, received a heart from Clinton House, 28, in the nation’s first known ″living donor″ heart transplant. House, whose lungs were damaged by cystic fibrosis, received the heart and lungs of a brain-dead automobile accident victim.

The men began passive leg and arm exercises Friday, and began taking short walks from their beds to chairs, said Debbie Bangledorf, spokeswoman at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In passive exercises, a physical therapist lifts the patient’s arms and legs to stretch the muscles and keep them in tone, Ms. Bangledorf said. Doctors expect the men to begin brief workouts on exercise bicycles ″in a few days,″ she said, adding that doctors do not know exactly when the bicycle exercises will begin.

It probably will be a week to 10 days before House, of Middle River, and Couch, of Yardley, Pa., meet for the first time, said Dr. William A. Baumgartner, head of the team that performed the double-donor transplant surgery Sunday and Monday.

Meanwhile, they recuperate on separate floors.

House’s lungs were severely damaged by cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease that causes a thick, sticky mucus to fill the lungs and digestive system. The disease often damages the hearts of its victims, but House’s heart was healthy.

Surgeons decided on a heart-lung transplant for House because lung-only transplants have been less successful. That made House’s heart available for Couch.

Hopkins doctors originally thought they had performed the first heart transplant involving a live donor, but English heart surgeon Magdi Yacoub said Thursday he had performed similar operations twice - once in late April and again in early May.

″Well, I’ll be,″ said Baumgartner, who led the procedure with Dr. Bruce A. Reitz, when he heard the news. ″We tried to say all the time that as far as we knew, it was the first. Usually, word of something like this gets out pretty fast. It’s incredible that it happened so close (in time) to ours.″

Baumgartner said the honor of being first doesn’t really matter.

″The scientific aspects of it are overshadowed by the human aspects,″ he said.

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