First combined heart-liver transplant completed at UC San Diego

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The first combined heart-liver transplant in San Diego was successfully completed this month, UC San Diego Health announced Wednesday.

After waiting more than 155 days, a healthy heart and liver was given to 54-year-old Frank “Sonny” Taitano during a 10-hour surgery at the San Diego-area hospital.

“I owe the team here everything,” Taitano said. “After these transplants, it is like nothing was ever wrong with me. I went in one door very sick and came back out a new person.”

Tatiano fell critically ill while awaiting his transplants and spent 50 days on a cardiac mechanic pump —the first of its kind — to sustain his life, cardiologist Dr. Eric Adler said.  

“About a month ago, we were not sure that he would make it but the device did the job by serving as a bridge to a combined heart-liver transplant,” Dr. Adler said. “The results have been spectacular and deeply gratifying for all involved.”

According to UC San Diego Health, less than 10 combined heart-liver transplants are performed in the United States each year.

“UC San Diego has invested in the personnel, equipment and facilities to do this type of high-risk transplant surgery safely and effectively for the benefit of the community,” Surgical Director Victor Pretorius said. “It’s a joy to see Mr. Taitano getting back to the life he loves.”

The surgery was performed by Dr. Alan Hemming, surgeon and chief of Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Surgery at UC San Diego Health, and the father of six and grandfather of thirteen was ever grateful.

“I thank everyone at UC San Diego from the bottom of my new heart and liver.”

Categories: Local San Diego News