Baptist Heart Institute Honors Survivors, Celebrates 38 Years of Heart Transplant Program

Baptist heart transplant patients Perry Arrington (left) and James Ridgell (right) join for the celebration.

Baptist Heart Institute celebrated the 38th anniversary of its heart transplant program with local heart transplant and heart failure survivors at a Totally ‘80s party on Friday, Oct. 27, at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis. Several Baptist team members joined in the fun.

Patients who have received left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) also gathered for the celebration to mark the 27th anniversary of Baptist’s Mechanical and Circulatory Support Program.

Perry Arrington, one of the newest patients to receive a heart transplant at Baptist, attended the celebration. He received his transplant on Oct. 3, 2023.

James Ridgell, who recently observed the 30th anniversary of his heart transplant, also attended the event. He received his transplant at Baptist on Oct. 7, 1993, and is the second-longest living heart transplant recipient in the program.

James was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and heart failure at age 30. He got his lifesaving transplant 10 years later.

“I get excited every year about it. It’s like a miracle in the beginning and still is,” said James, who lives in Atoka, Tennessee, with his wife.

James said that before his transplant he couldn’t walk very far without getting out of breath.

“I was suffering so much before. I have been blessed. It’s been 30 years. I give God all the glory,” said James.

He appreciates the way his life changed following his transplant, and enjoys spending time with family, gardening, going camping, riding motorcycles and working on Chevy trucks. His family includes 15 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

“I stay active. I’m always doing something. Most of the time I’m outside if weather permits,” he said.

James values the attentive care he’s gotten from Baptist through the years. He said that the cardiologists he’s worked with have stayed on top of his health, and his transplant nurse, whom he can call anytime, responds quickly.

Baptist performed the first adult heart transplant in Memphis on Oct. 21, 1985, and continues to offer the only certified adult heart transplant program in the Mid-South. Baptist is also the only provider in the Mid-South to offer LVAD and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).