Mayo Clinic surgeons perform first triple organ transplant in Arizona

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Mayo Clinic surgeons just completed the first triple organ transplant in Arizona. Fifty-four-year-old Doyle Duke got a heart, liver and kidney. The transplant was his only hope for survival, since he had been battling heart problems since he was 14. At one point, his arteries were 90% blocked.

These kinds of transplants are very rare, with usually only two to three per year. Mayo Clinic in Arizona does more organ transplants than any health center in the country.

We welcomed Dr. Bashar Aqel, Chair of the Mayo Clinic Transplant Department, to our Arizona Horizon studio. And transplant patient Doyle Duke joined us from his hospital room, along with his wife of 16 years, Billie.

Transplant a major success story

The one-of-a-kind procedure was considered a major success. Duke received a new heart, liver and kidney. In fact, his recovery went so well Duke was set to be released from the hospital the next day. “He was a true miracle,” said his wife, Billie.

We asked him what his plans are for the future. “I’m going to live, live, live,” Duke told us. “Live as hard as I can. Enjoy life, enjoy my grandkids, enjoy my kids.”

A startling diagnosis and more of Duke’s story

When Duke was in grade school, he loved to play baseball and wanted to be a Major League Baseball pitcher. However, during a routine physical to play on his school’s team, doctors discovered a rare heart condition. Therefore, he had to give up playing baseball, and then went on to undergo dozens of heart surgeries.

Additionally, Duke’s deteriorating heart condition also impacted his kidneys and liver. Doctors told him he would need to get a heart, liver and kidney transplant. As mentioned, only two or three triple transplants are done in the U.S. per year and by very few centers.

Mayo Clinic Arizona accepted Duke as a triple transplant patient. The facility is home to the largest transplant center in the country. It took weeks of preparation and dozens of specialists to come up with a “playbook” to execute the surgery, the first one ever done in Arizona.

The surgery took place in December 2022. The 14-hour surgery went well, and Duke has been improving steadily. As with any transplant, Duke’s journey did not end on the day of surgery. Duke has overcome several setbacks and continues to fight to regain his health with his wife Billie at his side.

“Here we go,” Duke said. “Let’s get better!”

You can read more about Duke’s journey here, or visit the page “Doyle’s Heart” on Facebook.

How to become a donor

The Dukes have been sharing their story in the hopes of raising awareness about the importance of organ donation. April is “Donate Life Month.” If you’d like more information about becoming an organ donor, visit www.dnaz.org.

Dr. Bashar Aqel, Chair of the Mayo Clinic Transplant Department, Doyle Duke, Billie Duke

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