University of Colorado Hospital Transplant Center performs first heart-kidney transplant in Colorado

Patient Sam Johns says none of this would be possible without the selfless person who made the decision to become an organ donor.
Nov. 18, 2015

AURORA, Colo. – The University of Colorado Hospital Transplant Center performed the first heart-kidney transplant surgery in the state of Colorado less than two weeks ago.

Earlier this year, 53-year-old patient Sam Johns experienced a massive heart attack and was transferred from another medical center to University of Colorado Hospital (UCH). While a team of providers was able to resuscitate him, the heart attack and subsequent cardiac arrests had severely damaged both his heart and kidneys.

Sam Johns with his wife Lori and his daughters Sara and Melissa.

In a lengthy combination of transplant surgeries, Johns received a new heart and kidney on Nov. 7, 2015. Both organs came from the same donor.

“I’ve been surprised at how well I’m doing and so soon – I am looking forward to getting back to work and my normal life.  None of this would be possible without the selfless person who made the decision to become an organ donor.  I can’t put my gratitude into words,” said Johns.

“This patient’s case is a striking example of how multiple providers from several disciplines including cardiology, nephrology and transplant surgery can build a team that puts patients first and accomplishes tremendous medical achievements,” said Dr. Amrut Ambardekar, medical director of Cardiac Transplantation at University of Colorado Hospital. “The transplants are truly giving this patient a new lease on life.”

The heart transplant began at midnight and lasted until 6:00 a.m. After a break of about six hours to ensure the heart was working well, the kidney transplant team completed their portion of the double transplant in an additional 2.5 hours.

“The cardiac transplant, performed by Dr. Ashok Babu and his team went incredibly smoothly, allowing us to perform the successful kidney transplant just a few hours later,” said Dr. Peter T. Kennealey, Surgical Director of the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Programs, University of Colorado Hospital.

“The patient has done exceedingly well and his case is a glowing example of how the multidisciplinary approach to organ transplantation works so well at the University of Colorado Hospital.  We are proud to set the highest standard of care for transplantation in the Rocky Mountain Region.”

The patient will likely spend about two more weeks at the hospital. After being discharged, he will begin a cardiac rehabilitation program to help him regain strength.

Earlier this year, the UCH Transplant Center performed the region’s first ever double-lung and liver transplant.

“UCHealth’s University of Colorado Hospital is a national leader, providing some of the most advanced surgeries and treatments available,” said UCH President and CEO Will Cook. “Together with the nationally-renowned specialists at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, we are improving the lives of our patients in remarkable ways.”

In Colorado, 44 people are waiting for a heart transplant, and almost 2,000 are waiting for a kidney transplant. Organ donors are essential and make these transplants possible. Residents can register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor at driver’s license offices or online at

Proceeds from this year’s Hearts of All Ages fundraiser event will benefit the UCH Transplant Center. For more information, visit the University of Colorado Hospital Foundation.

About University of Colorado Hospital

University of Colorado Hospital is the Rocky Mountain region’s leading academic medical center.  UCH is best known as an innovator in patient care and often as one of the first hospitals to bring new medicine to the patients’ bedside.  University HealthSystem Consortium named UCH the #1 Academic Medical Center in quality in the nation in both 2011 and 2012, and U.S. News & World Report named University of Colorado Hospital the best hospital in Colorado in 2012, 2013 and 2014.  UCH is one of five Colorado hospitals that make up UCHealth.  The hospital’s physicians are affiliated with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, part of the University of Colorado system.  Based on the expansive Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, CO, the hospital is where patient care, research and education converge to establish the future of health care delivery.