In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

October 10, 2017

Fifteen Years Later, Transplant Patient and His Surgeon Reunite at Mayo Clinic

By In the Loop

Fifteen years after receiving a life-saving heart transplant, Tom Manuel reunited with the surgeon who made it all happen … with a little help from Facebook.

It had been 15 years since Tom Manuel had a heart transplant, but he never forgot the name of his transplant surgeon. The two of them recently had a chance to meet again.

Tom Manuel still remembers the day like it was yesterday. "I was sitting in my chair looking out at my backyard and I got a phone call asking, 'Are you ready?'" he tells us. "And to be perfectly honest, for a microsecond, I really thought about it because when you get down to the essence of what a heart transplant is, you need to decide how you really feel about it."

For Tom, whose heart problems came to light a few years earlier when he suffered a heart attack during a pickup basketball game, there was only one answer. "I'd essentially spent four years living in a La-Z-Boy chair because I was in such bad shape after my heart attack," he tells us. "I couldn't walk 10 feet without collapsing. So I said, 'Yes, I'm ready.'"

Tom and his family then traveled to a Florida hospital where a surgical team successfully transplanted his new heart. After waking up in the recovery room, Tom asked to meet his lead surgeon, Si Pham, M.D.

That was 15 years ago. In the time since, it's not just Tom's life that changed as a result of the heart transplant. After going through the experience with Tom, his wife, Terry, enrolled in nursing school and spent time working with heart transplant patients at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus. Tom's daughter Shannon, who was just four months old when Tom had the heart attack, completed a medical research internship at Mayo Clinic and is working toward becoming a pathologist. "This whole experience has transformed my family, there's no question about that," Tom says.

Which is why when Tom was looking through old scrapbooks recently, he started thinking back to his transplant surgeon. "One day I just started thinking about Dr. Pham," Tom tells us. "I searched for him on Facebook and found him, and came to learn that he'd just taken a new job as chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Mayo Clinic in Florida. And since moving to Jacksonville ourselves, we've become a Mayo family now, too," Tom says. "Talk about closing the loop."

A few messages later, doctor and patient made plans to reunite during Tom's next follow-up appointment at Mayo Clinic, where he's now a patient. "We spent a couple of hours together and it was great," Tom says. "I thanked him for saving my life and showed him pictures of my children and my grandchildren. We also talked about my wife and my daughter, and about how they've gotten into health care themselves because of everything he did to save my life."

For Dr. Pham, reuniting with Tom was one of those moments that reinforce the life-saving work he and his team do every day. "I'm so happy to see that he's continuing to do so well," Dr. Pham tells us. "It's a great reward for us to know that we were able to help someone like him not only live but to also go on to see their children and their grandchildren grow up."

Reward us by sharing your comments below. Then, use the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.



Tags: Dr. Si Pham, Heart attack, heart transplant, Mayo Clinic in Florida, Mayo Clinic Transplant Center, Patient Stories

Mayo Dr.’s are the very BEST in the world.
They are all very special people with hearts & souls who change lives every day & they always remain friendly & treat people in such a kind & caring way. The Dr.’s &. Rises become your friend.


Dr. Pham is a true Godsend. He has been blessed with so much skill and continues to save lives & families each day. He has; tremendous presence, immense knowledge, great bedside manners, is extremely caring, super sense of humor, very humble and always fully committed/vested to completing the job at hand. Congratulations to Tom for chugging along, 15 years list transplant. I’m so glad for the reunion!
I received the ultimate gift of life, on April 20, 2015 at UMMC, Baltimore. The primary surgeons on my transplant team were Dr. Pham and Dr. Griffith. I’m alive and well today and I hope to keep in contact with all those who helped save my life (God, wife, Surgeons/doctors/nurses/hosp.staff, family, friends and all those who prayed me in various parts of the world – including even complete strangers) . God is kind. Miracles do happen. May God bless people like;
Dr. SI Pham , Dr. Erika Feller, Dr. Bartlett Griffith, all doctors and wonderfully talented & caring medical teams at UMMC and all other hospitals. Guide will always provide guidance. Keep faith alive, and never lose home. God bless all – Sj (Sam /Sanjeet)

Please sign in or register to post a reply.
Contact Us · Privacy Policy