Duke Medicine breaks world record for most heart transplant recipients in one place

Monday, September 8, 2014
Duke Medicine breaks world record
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Nearly 200 people gathered for the event.

DURHAM (WTVD) -- Duke Medicine held a big bash Sunday to celebrate a major milestone, and they broke the world record in the process for bringing together the most heart transplant recipients in one place.

Brian Barndt is one of those recipients. He's an avid swimmer who competes in triathlons and even the Transplant Games of America. Yet, almost 10 years ago he was unable to swim or do many other things he enjoyed.

"For nine months before my transplant, I couldn't swim one length of the pool. And right before I got called in for the transplant, I could barely walk up my own driveway," recalled Barndt.

Barndt was actually diagnosed with congestive heart failure at 22, but managed his condition and continued to swim for years; until his health took a turn for the worse and he finally needed a transplant at Duke in 2005.

"For me the change was enormous. As soon as the surgery was over I was being told that my voice sounded stronger, that my ears were pink for the first time and my lips were pink, which was a big joke for everybody," said Barndt. "The gratitude I have is off the charts, it can't be measured, and I'm indebted to Duke Hospital."

Mingling at Sunday's event at the Washington Duke Inn, similar sentiments were being expressed by dozens of other fellow heart transplant recipients who came together for this reunion of patients and Duke staff.

"It's a wonderful celebration of and recognition of all of the people that have been involved in this program," proclaimed Duke Cardiologist Joseph Rogers.

The celebration also served as a chance for Duke Medicine to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest gathering of heart transplant recipients in one place.

Representatives were on hand to keeping track of how many recipients showed up, checking each person in and assigning them a number. The count for the gathering was 189 recipients. The previous record - set in Michigan earlier this year - was 132.

Of course, Duke had already reached a major milestone even before the party started.

"There are not many centers in the world that have accomplished this feat of 1,000 transplants over the lifetime of their program," explained Medical Director of Cardio Transplants, Chet Patel.

However, as people at the event were quick to point out, the celebration was about more than just numbers. It was about real people getting second chances at life, and it was about giving thanks to the donors who made that possible.

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