Newark Beth celebrates its longest-living heart pump transplant recipient

In moment that brings hope to many, Union County resident celebrates 14th year with mechanical device

Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s Advanced Heart Failure Treatment and Transplant program ranks among the Top 15 programs in the country and has performed more than 1,100 heart transplants.

Its world-renowned team of heart transplant surgeons and physicians offers a wealth of knowledge and experience serving the metropolitan area.

Of course, when you’re a heart transplant recipient, only one number matters: The additional years you get after surgery.

No one knows that better than Mayra Rodriguez of Union County.

Just 42, this week, she celebrated her 14th anniversary of living with an Abbott HeartMate II Left Ventricular Assist Device, a mechanical heart pump that helps the heart pump blood from the left ventricle to the aorta and the rest of the body.

Newark Beth officials said she is longest-living person in New Jersey on a left ventricular assist device, a mechanical heart pump. Only 40 patients in the United States have lived more than 14 years with this device.

“I am so thankful to the team at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t have enough words to express how fortunate I feel to be here today and to have spent the last 14 years enjoying my life with my family.”

Dr. Margarita Camacho, surgical director, cardiac transplantation for Newark Beth Israel and RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group, said Rodriguez’s story is inspiring.

“It has been a privilege to watch Mayra progress over the last 14 years,” she said. “When we met her, she was critically ill but, thanks to the innovative clinical care she received, her determination and the support of her family, Mayra is here with us today celebrating this milestone.”

In 2005, Rodriguez was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She underwent chemotherapy that treated her cancer but severely damaged her heart. Then, in 2007, after giving birth to her son, she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy.

A year later, the Newark Beth team implanted an Abbott HeartMate II Left Ventricular Assist Device that they only expected to last a few years.

LVADs were originally approved for use as a bridge to a heart transplant. Today, close to 14,000 patients are living with an LVAD and it is also used as “Destination Therapy” for patients like Mayra, who are medically ineligible for heart transplant. In fact, Mayra is one of just 40 patients in the United States who have lived more than 14 years with the HeartMate II LVAD.

Approximately 6.2 million Americans are living with heart failure, and 10% of them have advanced heart failure. However, donor hearts are few and far between. In 2020, only 3,658 heart transplants were performed in the world.

Newark Beth CEO Darrell Terry said the hospital is doing all it can to change those numbers.

“Our Advanced Heart Failure Treatment and Transplant team is committed to delivering world-class care,” he said. “Our program is ranked among the Top 15 in the country, and it is phenomenal accomplishments such as this one and incredible patients like Mayra who continue to inspire us all.”