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Stormie Jones: The world’s first heart-liver transplant with a UT Southwestern connection

Stormie Jones
Stormie Jones, the world’s first heart-liver transplant recipient, initially was treated at UT Southwestern.

DALLAS – Dec. 21, 2016 – The year was 1984, and a 6-year-old girl from a Fort Worth suburb needed a procedure that had never been done before to live.

That girl, UT Southwestern Medical Center patient Stormie Jones, became the world’s first heart-liver transplant recipient on Valentine’s Day 1984, traveling to Pennsylvania for the operation led by a world-renowned transplant surgeon. The landmark surgery made national headlines.

Although Stormie died of organ rejection six years later, her case paved the way for more heart-liver transplants. Over 200 such operations have been performed in the U.S. since then – with one of the most recent completed at Stormie’s original treatment center, UT Southwestern.

While Stormie’s transplant occurred elsewhere, she benefitted from research at UT Southwestern that led to a greater understanding of how the body metabolizes cholesterol. Two UTSW researchers, Drs. Joseph Goldstein and Michael Brown, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine the following year for their findings on how the body regulates cholesterol metabolism. Their findings laid the groundwork for development of the statin drugs now taken by millions to lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad cholesterol”) and prevent heart attacks.

Before her historic double transplant, Stormie had already undergone two coronary bypass operations as well as a heart valve replacement. A genetic disease, familial hypercholesterolemia, caused her to accumulate high levels of LDL cholesterol in her blood.

Related transplant story

Transplant surgeons recently performed UT Southwestern Medical Center’s first heart/liver transplant – saving the life of a singer/musician from a small Texas town.

UT Southwestern research had established the importance of the liver in regulating cholesterol, so Stormie’s doctors recommended a liver transplant to reduce her LDL cholesterol level. But, given her weakened heart, a double transplant seemed to be her best chance for survival.

To arrange this first-ever procedure, a team of doctors at UT Southwestern that included former Professor of Internal Medicine Dr. David Bilheimer worked with those at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, including Dr. Thomas E. Starzl. Dr. Starzl had performed the world’s first liver transplant.

“That was a very famous transplant,” said Dr. Malcolm MacConmara, the lead liver transplant surgeon for UTSW’s own historic heart-liver transplant completed this past September. “And Starzl is probably the most famous liver transplant surgeon ever.”

This fall’s double transplant at UT Southwestern “was quite a victory” for the institution, he said. “Instead of having to send the patient to Pittsburgh for a transplant, as occurred in 1984 with the Stormie Jones case, we’ve built Southwestern into a place that can be at the forefront of these difficult cases.”

Dr. Brown, Director of the Erik Jonsson Center for Research in Molecular Genetics and Human Disease, is a Regental Professor who holds The W.A. (Monty) Moncrief Distinguished Chair in Cholesterol and Arteriosclerosis Research, and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine.

Dr. Goldstein, Chairman of Molecular Genetics, is a Regental Professor who holds the Julie and Louis A. Beecherl, Jr. Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Research, and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine.

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About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty includes many distinguished members, including six who have been awarded Nobel Prizes since 1985. The faculty of almost 2,800 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care in about 80 specialties to more than 100,000 hospitalized patients and oversee approximately 2.2 million outpatient visits a year. 

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Media Contact: Carol Marie Cropper
214-648-3404
carol.cropper@utsouthwestern.edu

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