Archives For Heart Transplant

Ryan Brooker stuck on way to Tufts Medical Center

BOSTON —For most people, traffic on Interstate 93 during the morning commute into Boston is something they’ve come to expect.

But for a man from Vermont, it almost became a matter of life or death.

Ryan Brooker, 34, was on his way to Tufts Medical Center for a long-awaited heart transplant.

“Given the amount of time, it’s a progressive disease, and for me, time was running out,” said Brooker, whose heart had been damaged by a virus nearly 10 years ago.

After years of therapy and medication, cardiologists determined he would require a transplant. On Nov. 26, Brooker got the call.

“When we initially got the call, which was about two in the morning, he calculated (he was) three hours out, he thought there’d no problem,” said Tufts transplant surgeon Dr. Duc Pham.

But Brooker, a passenger in a car driven by his father John, ran into a major traffic jam near Medford.

“By 8 a.m., he was still at 30 minutes out, and we needed him in the hospital an hour prior to that,” said Pham.

The Tufts transplant team kept tabs on the Brookers’ journey, mindful that a donor heart usually won’t last more than four hours unless the transplant was underway.

“The third phone call came in, you can hear the panic on the line, you’re going to lose the heart,” said Pham.

Pham came up with the idea, one he called “crazy,” to contact Massachusetts State Police and request a police escort.

After giving dispatchers their license plate and car description, the Brookers were soon met by troopers T.J. Hannon and Robert Childs at the entrance to the O’Neill Tunnel.

“He was sandwiched in. He was pretty secure with us,” said Childs.

“It’s so frustrating that your son is depending on you, and you’re trying to do your best, and when the call came to look for the police and they came flying by, it was like thank you, God,” said John Brooker.

The younger Brooker had the surgery on time, and was discharged within a week, about the usual timeframe for transplant recipients.

“To leave here in eight days, be at the door of your own house, eating a meal with your own family, is what shocked me,” said Ryan Brooker, who returned to Tufts on Monday to thank Hannon and Childs in person.

“A lot of the times, you help people, many situations you don’t hear the outcome unless you look into it. It feels good he got here in time for the procedure,” said Hannon.

While Brooker continues his comeback, the experience has given his father a new perspective on Boston.

“It’s totally changed my opinion and raised Boston to the highest possible level. This place is amazing,” said John Brooker.

Ryan Brooker added, “From where I was, and where I was, was dark. It’s an amazing field, and what they do, I can’t be more grateful.”