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Pictured from left to right: George Hubbard, president of the Blytheville Area Chamber of Commerce (and owner of Hubbard and Hoke Furniture); Larry Lovelace, heart transplant recipient; Jane Thayer, administrative director for the Baptist Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Center; Charles "Mike" Travis, heart transplant recipient; Brittney Tracy, heart transplant recipient; and Randy Scott, president and chief operating officer for Farmers Bank and Trust in Blytheville, Ark.

Flag ceremony honors Baptist Memphis heart transplant recipients

The Mid-South Transplant Foundation recently honored three heart transplant recipients at a flag ceremony in Blytheville, Ark.

The three patients, Brittney Tracy, Charles “Mike” Travis and Larry Lovelace, were all heart transplant patients at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis’ Heart Institute.

Tracy, of Forrest City, Ark., began having severe heart problems at the age of 13. After an incident where her heart crashed several times, she received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

“As the years went on, my heart began to get weaker and weaker,” said Tracy. “I also developed an aneurysm on the bottom section of my heart, and on Sept. 27, 2011, I was shocked almost 20 times in a row by my ICD, and that’s when they said I had to be evaluated for a transplant and sent me to Baptist Memorial Hospital.”

Tracy was on the waiting list for almost three months before she received a donor heart in August 2012 at Baptist Memphis.

“Baptist played the biggest role in my transplant, besides my donor,” said Tracy. “My experience with the doctors and the hospital were amazing. I became friends with my doctors, nurses and hospital staff as they made sure I had everything I would ever need and treated me just like family.”

Tracy is now able to do much more and be more active.

“I can run, jump, and do whatever I want to do,” said Tracy. “I will finally, after years of dreaming of skydiving, be able to make that a reality.”

Travis began experiencing chest pains in the spring of 1990 at the age of 35. Before getting his transplant, he underwent seven by-pass procedures and had almost 20 stents placed to treat his weaker arteries before suffering a heart attack last fall.

“The next day, [after the heart attack], Dr. William Russo came into my room and told us that they had done about all they could with my heart, so they would just get me another,” said Travis.

Travis waited five months for a new heart, and during that time, he had concerns about his transplant and the healing process following the procedure.

“I was afraid I would be a slave to the transplant, but nothing has been further from the truth,” said Travis. “I was amazed at how much better I felt almost from day one after the surgery.”

Lovelace, of Blytheville, was also honored at the flag ceremony. There, he spoke about his experience and thanked the donor’s family for their gift of life.

The ceremony honored the three recipients, as well as the families of the donors. Along with the public, members of Baptist Memorial Health Care’s Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Center team and the Mid-South Transplant Foundation were present.

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