Lakewood man becomes first in Colorado to receive heart, kidney in same operation

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AURORA, Colo. -- Doctors at the University of Colorado Hospital performed the state's first heart-kidney transplant. Less than two weeks ago, 53-year-old Sam Johns received the new organs during a two-session, 8 1/2-hour operation.

“I had a massive heart attack in February,” he said. “I flat-lined and was really dead for about a half hour. The EMTs and St. Joe’s staff were able to revive me, but in the days following I had a series of cardiac arrests which left both my heart and kidneys severely damaged.”

His only option, a pair of transplants. Luck was with him, in that he was able to avoid the single kidney or heart transplant waiting lists by needing both. This put him on a different list to get both from a single donor.

One surgery took about six hours, the other took about 2 1/2 hours — with a break in between just to make sure the heart was functioning properly.

While waiting for about eight months, Lori Johns has put up a GoFundMe page and has been working three jobs to help make ends meet.

Sam Johns has lost about 80 pounds and vows to change his lifestyle and eat better. His real goal is to spend more time with his family.

The family is so thankful of friends, family, donors and the medical teams who were able to keep the elevator mechanic alive.

“We can never say thank you enough to those who have helped make this miracle come true, but we hope they know we pray for them and thank them everyday,” said Lori Johns.

The United Network for Organ Sharing indicates 59 of these complicated rare, double procedures were done in 2009.

And, in Colorado 44 people are waiting for a heart and almost 2,000 for a kidney transplant. If you are not a donor, the family hopes you will consider giving the gift of life to someone, as time goes on.

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