Indiana high school administrator gets a new heart through directed donation

Brian Clark, heart transplant patient

Brian Clark, heart transplant recipient, at Munster High School

Brian Clark struggled with congestive heart failure for more than a decade, starting in 2006. In July 2017, Clark, a father of five children, was told by University of Chicago Medicine cardiologist Hemal Nayak, MD, that he couldn’t live much longer without a heart transplant.

On August 10, 2017, the Munster, Indiana, native and local high school athletic director was approved to be added to the organ waiting list. He was told it would likely take months to be matched with a donor. But just two days later, Clark received an unexpected call from a colleague at Munster High School: The man's family wanted to donate their recently-deceased relative's heart to Clark.

National organ allocation guidelines allow families of donors to designate recipients through what is called directed donation. Desire to direct a donation is the first step. Then, a number of variables and medical factors must be considered in ensuring the organ is a fit for the recipient's body. Miraculously, the heart was a perfect match, and Clark's transplant took place at UChicago Medicine on August 13, 2017.

I am eternally grateful to my donor family to be able to live longer and watch my children grow up.

Clark recently celebrated his three-year transplant anniversary and started a new job as an assistant principal. "I'm feeling great and have had no complications," Clark said.

He still sees his donor's family member regularly at work and even had the chance to meet other members of the family at a UChicago Medicine Heart Transplant Gala event in early 2020. He said he's eternally grateful to his donor family to be able to live longer and watch his children grow up.

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