Next week, I'll check into Mayo, one of the world's premier hospitals, to undergo additional treatment in preparation for receiving a new heart. Since my brain tumor turned out to be benign and my prostate cancer has responded to treatment, doctors there said those issues no longer should disqualify me as a candidate for a heart transplant.With the competetion for patients underway as the large health care system land-grab extends across state lines and overseas (See here and here), have the selection criteria for transplant patients remained a form of rationing or really become a form of marketing?
Now that I'm on the list, I am on an around-the-clock standby alert. I have to be ready to be on the operating table within four hours once a compatible heart becomes available. The fact that Chicago is 331 miles from Mayo, in Rochester, Minn., complicates things since I don't have my own charter jet. But the Mayo Med Air charter service could assist me if a commercial flight can't get me there quickly enough.
The challenge now is the wait. The heart I need will become available only when the donor is declared brain-dead and his heart can be taken from him and implanted in me within four hours. I am told the fact my blood type is B positive increases the chances of me getting a transplant quicker, though there are other patients ahead of me.
I had wanted it all to happen at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where world-renowned Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam, who performed a triple-bypass on me in 2001, has done more than 1,000 transplants. But that hospital takes a more conservative approach to the fact my prostate cancer still is in remission. They wouldn't put me on the transplant list until I had been using an implanted heart pump ''for several years.''
Fortunately, the Mayo Clinic and Northwestern Memorial Hospital feel I have progressed enough in my recovery from the slow-growing prostate cancer to be eligible for a heart now.