Heart transplant recipients reflect on gift of life at Seton holiday event


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist DAVID GARDNER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE


Posted on December 11, 2012 at 7:18 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 11 at 7:40 PM

AUSTIN -- True gifts from the heart were celebrated at Seton Medical Center Tuesday.  In the last 25 years, Seton has performed more than 338 heart transplant surgeries. Both doctors and patients say the holidays are the perfect time to reflect on that gift.

It was a holiday party at Seton Medical Center in Central Austin where at least 50 in attendance had already received their most important gift -- a new heart.

"Just to see people that have gone through what I've gone through and to have a heart and to have a second chance," said Sue Steinhauser, a heart transplant recipient. "What's neat is to see the lower numbers. Like I'm number 297. To see the lower numbers and say, 'Hey! It's possible. You can do it.' That's what's great."

That's because the lower numbers belong to the Seton Heart Transplant patients who've lived the longest. Like 81-year-old Twain Schieffer -- who is number 14.

"I had 48 hours to live, and they got me a heart in 32 hours," said Schieffer.

That was nearly 25 years ago.  After eight bypass surgeries in less than a decade, Schieffer was told a transplant was his last chance.

"They said that was the only thing that was going to save me," he said. "Since it's the only thing that's going to save me, you are going to go ahead and do it."

A virus attacked Steinhauser's heart eight years ago. She was in and out of consciousness and barely remembers being told she would need a transplant.

"I guess my first thought was somebody was going to have to die, and that was hard," she said fighting back tears.  

She's never met her donor's family, but she says he's in her prayers every day.  

"Every time I do a new adventure I say it's because of him," said Steinhauser. "I don't know a name, so I just call him Sonny. He's my Sonny boy. I thank him every day. I thank him and his family for doing such an unselfish act."
The medical director of the Seton Heart Specialty Care and Transplant Center says each survivor is a living inspiration for future transplant patients and the medical staff that cares for them.

"Even though I've done this for over 20 years, I am in awe every time I see it," said Ernest Hauesslein, M.D., cardiology. "It's so amazing to see someone who is so close to death and now so full of life."

It's life made possible through organ donation.

Click here for more information on the Seton Heart Specialty Care and Transplant Center and organ donation.

Austin Local News Video
More Video