Heart transplant

Pioneer Heart Transplant Surgeon at Hartford Hospital Dr. Henry Low Dies – Hartford Courant

Dr. Henry BC Low, who performed Connecticut’s first successful heart transplant at Hartford Hospital, died Thursday night, Hartford HealthCare CEO Jeffrey A. Flaks said Friday in a letter to staff. The minimum was 95.

Low, after whom the Heart Center at Hartford Hospital is named, tirelessly persuaded the hospital’s board of trustees to allow him to perform the procedure in 1984, which was only performed in a few hospitals at the time.

Low, who “holds a special place at Hartford Hospital and Hartford HealthCare…saved lives, advanced surgical medicine, and was eager to learn — and then teach — cutting-edge techniques,” wrote Flaks. Underdeveloped cardiac surgery programs at other hospitals as well, he said.

The first patient, Andrzej Jan “Andy” Buczek of Farmington, lived another 33 years, becoming one of the oldest heart transplant patients in the country, Flaks said. In 1987, Low performed an emergency pediatric heart transplant, Flaks wrote.

Flaks quoted Dr. Sabet Hashim, chairman of cardiac surgery and co-chief medical officer of the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute, who called Low “a brave man and a passionate surgeon.” Flaks said Hashim believed Low “remained a fearless and respected leading physician.”

In a 2014 Hartford Courant story, Low said he performed 99 animal transplants before his first human surgery.

Dr. Christiaan Barnard of South Africa performed the first human heart transplant in 1967, but it wasn’t until the Food and Drug Administration approved the immunosuppressive drug cyclosporine that allowed Low to eventually persuading the hospital board to let him perform the transplant on Buczek.

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“I think they were afraid of failure,” Low told Le Courant. “We were ready.”

James Dougherty, a consultant cardiologist who was part of the team that performed Buczek’s operation, said at the time that there were only about 20 hospitals in the country performing the procedure.

“It was like Star Wars,” he said. “It was a new frontier.”

The operation was so closely watched that more than 30 people passed through the operating room as it unfolded, and when Buczek’s new heart finally started beating on its own, the room erupted in cheers, reported the Current in 2014.

Another of Low’s patients, Jeff Alarie, 26, of Killingly, became known as the ‘star of the trail’ because he walked six miles around the hospital within days of his operation.

In a 1992 story, Low said of Alarie, “He’s the star of the track. … He had the shortest stay – about 13 days.

Ed Stannard can be reached at [email protected]