Heart and lung transplant patients celebrate the gift of life

UCLA Health Heart and Lung Transplant program ranks among the nation's best
Cesar Sagrero and Cesar Plancarte
Cesar Sagrero, left, and his son, Cesar Plancarte, both of whom received heart transplants at UCLA.

Esteban Jaramillo, 38, received a double lung transplant at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center this past August after both of his lungs collapsed. He had faced health challenges in the past, having undergone a bone marrow transplant 14 years ago, but he didn't expect to develop a lung condition as well. Despite these hardships, Jaramillo remained hopeful.

"Since I was a kid my grandma told me to have a lot of faith," he said. "UCLA is a place where miracles of science really happen. I got my life back here."

Jaramillo's success story is one of many that were celebrated recently at the UCLA Heart and Lung Transplant holiday event, which was attended by more than 300 transplant patients, their families and several members of the transplant team.

The annual event celebrates "the remarkable accomplishments of the last year and our patients' incredible stories of hope and inspiration," said Dr. Abbas Ardehali, surgical director of the UCLA Heart and Lung Transplant program, which is one of the largest in the United States. "It's truly a heartwarming evening that showcases how organ transplantation saves lives."

The UCLA Health Heart and Lung Transplant Program ranks among the best in terms of patient survival rates and outcomes of the transplanted organ, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients. The transplant program has pioneered numerous advances in transplant research, surgical technique, organ procurement and patient care.

Several other transplant recipients shared their stories, highlighting the challenges and triumphs of undergoing transplantation. Cesar Plancarte, 28, and his father, Cesar Sagrero, 52, both of whom received heart transplants at UCLA, shared their gratitude for receiving new hearts.

"I was born with an enlarged heart and had a lot of restrictions growing up. No exercise, no caffeine and it worsened over time," Plancarte said. "I feel amazing now. I can bike for miles now and do all the physical activities I couldn't do before."

Sharon Agar, 60, a lung transplant recipient, gave a soulful performance of singer Nina Simone's "Feeling Good." She received a double lung transplant two years ago, and said it was a low point when she found herself unable to sing.

"I told myself that if I ever got through this, I would sing this song in public."

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