Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson on Wednesday joined dozens of Tampa General Hospital patients and their family members in the Capitol courtyard to mark a milestone of 10,000 transplants performed at the hospital.
The press conference was part of Tampa General Hospital Day at the Capitol, held by hospital CEO John Couris. The hospital celebrated its landmark transplant event, which places Tampa General Hospital among the top transplant centers in the country.
“Every one of these patients is a hero,” Couris said. “They found the strength to survive. And the team at Tampa General Hospital is incredibly proud to have been a part of their journey.”
Added Simpson, the Trilby Republican who will lead the Senate in 2020-22: “Tampa General Hospital is a quality institution in our region. I love their motto because it is true: while others practice medicine, TGH defines it.
“It was great to see so many patients and families here in our state Capitol to share how Tampa General saved their lives. Congrats to Tampa General for achieving the milestone of 10,000 transplants.”
One of the featured speakers was Tonya Cajuste, who received heart and kidney transplants at the hospital. She recalled how her health ordeal started at her home in West Palm Beach: “The paramedics came, and they couldn’t get a reading on my heart; they thought it was their equipment.”
Doctors at a local hospital found she had an aortic dissection: “It began to separate from my heart wall and there was no explanation for it. It was just one of those things that happens in life, right? …
“Several weeks later, my heart went into some crazy rhythm where it was beating over 200 beats per minute,” Cajuste said. “For the first time, I heard two words that were life changing — heart transplant.”
Tampa General “was the only hospital to say yes, and that is one of the reasons I’m standing here. They continue to say yes, yes, we will. We’ll find out what’s going on with you. Yes, we will stabilize you. Yes, we will get you on heart transplant and kidney transplant lists.
“Yes, we will not only care for you, but we’ll care for your family … My husband was invited to people’s homes to have dinner. That just doesn’t happen everywhere. There is true heart at Tampa General Hospital, so we all have a responsibility to advocate for them.”
Hospital staff also had a presence throughout the Plaza level, with the latest technologies and innovations at TGH on display in the Rotunda and one of five helicopters used to transport critical patients to TGH from 12 counties on display in the courtyard.
Tampa General marked its 10,000th successful transplant in the fall of 2018; the program began in 1974. Its clinical teams went on to perform the first successful heart transplant in Florida, and Tampa General is now among the top 10 busiest organ transplant centers in the nation, according to a statement.
The hospital is a Level 1 Trauma Center and was the first hospital in Florida to achieve this verification from the American College of Surgeons. TGH also is the only Florida hospital verified as a Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center by the ACS.
Tampa General is home to the only Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program designated by the Florida Department of Health as well as one of four Florida burn centers verified by the American Burn Association. TGH also is a nationally certified comprehensive stroke center and is the primary teaching hospital of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.
The 10,000th transplant was performed at TGH on Sept. 30, 2018, when a patient from Fort Myers received a new kidney. The first transplant was also a kidney transplant performed 44 years earlier in 1974.
This year, the hospital has already performed more than 100 liver transplants, ranking it as the 9th busiest center for adult liver transplants in the nation.
The hospital has performed 300 kidney transplants this year as well. Today, the hospital performs adult heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplants, including kidney/ pancreas transplants and living donor kidney transplants. TGH also performs pediatric kidney transplants.
Also spotted at Wednesday’s press conference: GOP state Rep. Jamie Grant of Tampa and Democratic state Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton of St. Petersburg.