By Geo Rodriguez
Memorial Healthcare System
Memorial Regional Hospital made history in 2014 performing the first adult heart transplant in Broward County.
At the heart of this historical event was Teresa Bueno, Memorial’s Adult Heart Transplant Manager.
Not only did she witnessed this medical milestone, she helped make it happen.
Teresa has been part of the Adult Heart Transplant Program at Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute since day one. The program has emerged as the crowning centerpiece of Memorial’s TotalHeart Center at Memorial Regional Hospital. She manages the day-to-day operations and the four phases of transplantation: pre-transplant, transplant, post-transplant and discharge. She’s the one who tells patients an organ is available (her favorite part of the job) and makes sure people on the waiting list are still viable transplant candidates and expedites the time-sensitive process. It’s an awesome responsibility that she gladly accepts.
“The Memorial Regional Hospital Adult Heart Transplant Program is kind of like my baby,” Teresa explains. “When I first got here, there was nothing. I never saw myself having the privilege to be able to do something of this magnitude.”
Transplantation is one of most highly regulated programs in healthcare. In order to perform organ transplants, a facility must acquire approval from the United Network for Organ Sharing, a federally contracted group that oversees organ allocation, and the Centers for Medicare Services (CMS). To achieve that certification, the team has to go through the rigors of setting up a solid infrastructure to provide multidisciplinary, 24-hour care.
Clearly, establishing a heart transplant program is not easy. But that’s why Memorial hired Teresa – a veteran in transplantation services with a passion for the field.
“I don’t think I picked transplants. I think transplants picked me,” says Teresa. “I felt it was with this patient population where I could give the most.”
According to Teresa, it all started in pediatrics with a young patient who had graft-versus-host disease. She took care of her every day when the patient was in critical care.
“It’s really fascinating, because it’s not only taking care of the patient but also the family. One has to have a deep understanding of the disease process and its implications. It is a lot more than very powerful medications; it has to do with other body systems such as hematology, immunology and other disciplines such as infectious diseases and psychosocial issues. It’s just a very complex area of patient caregiving,” Teresa says.
Knowing all that she does about the intricacies of transplantation has allowed the program to grow quickly over the last two years. Healthcare professionals from other disciplines have joined in the effort, integrating their areas of expertise to provide the best possible patient care. To date, the cardiology team has performed 14 successful transplants.
“I am proud and humbled by having been a part of an amazing team and of everything that has been developed and implemented,” she says. “When I see the red banners ‘First Heart Transplant Broward County,’ I still get goose bumps.”