PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A Gulf Coast woman is getting close to a Guinness World Record, not for any kind of athletic accomplishment, but just for how long she has lived.
Katie Teague received a heart transplant over 32 years ago, and she is still alive and thriving. According to Guinness, the world record for surviving a heart transplant with the same donor heart is just over 34 years. She says she feels so thankful she is still here, telling her story and encouraging others to choose organ donation.
Teague received a heart transplant in September of 1989 when she was 21 years old. Teague said she was called a “miracle girl,” having survived such a major surgery.
“I was starting to die. I had to be in a wheelchair if I was going to leave the house,” said Teague.
Teague was born with a congenital heart defect. Her parents were told she would only live six weeks,
but her little heart just kept on pumping. However, she spent her childhood knowing that she could die at any time.
Finally, at the age of 21, a transplant became her last resort. Even so, doctors were reluctant to give her the transplant because she was so sick.
“I pretty much begged. I had lived to 21 and wasn’t supposed to live to 1 year old. I told them I was a tough broad. I knew I could get through the surgery. After discussing it, they agreed they could do a transplant.”
After surgery, they told her she might, at best, live ten years with the new heart. Katie decided to make the most of it. She earned a college degree, got married, and even though she was told she would not be able to have children, she welcomed two beautiful sons.
“It was my hope that we would have some good years and deal with it when it comes, and it just kept going! She is amazing,” said Katie’s husband, Jeff.
WKRG talked to Teague’s original transplant surgeon at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. James Kirklin remembers operating on Teague. He said most transplant patients only live an average of 15 years after transplant. He was pleased to hear that Katie has thrived for over 32 years with the same donor heart. He calls her a wonderful success story.
“When I received this email, I was shocked. Thirty-three years! This is incredible! And oh yes, she never had a re-transplant! This is really phenomenal,” said Kirklin.
Ann Rayburn with Legacy of Hope, Alabama’s organ registry organization, said Teague is an example of how making the decision to donate organs is so impactful.
“To think you could give someone 30 or 40 years of life through a transplant is amazing, and she has given life to two whole new people,” said Rayburn.
Teague wants to be an inspiration to others, encouraging them to choose organ donation for their family.
“I hope people donate their organs to help people like me who would not be here had they not made the decision,” said Teague.
One of Teague’s friends, Mike Alexander, has written a book about her incredible story of surviving over three decades after a heart transplant. It’s called, “The Things We Take For Granted: The life story of a heart transplant patient.” You can purchase a copy here.
“The things we take for granted. It’s a great title Don’t take life for granted. Love your family, hug everyone. Stop and smell the roses,” said Teague.
Teague reminds everyone to have a conversation with their family about organ donation so that they know your wishes if something happens to you.
The Legacy of Hope encourages everyone to not only choose to be an organ donor on their driver’s license but also to register on the Legacy of Home’s website here.