UW Medicine purposefully transplants heart with Hep C, patient now cured with healthy heart

SEATTLE — An Anacortes man is walking proof of a medical breakthrough in heart transplants that doctors say will allow them to do up to 10% more transplants.

Kerry Hayes got the call on Dec. 20 that he was totally cured after being purposefully given a new heart that was infected with Hepatitis C.

“Would've been foolish to say no,” Hayes said.  “It was totally worth the risk.”

Hayes had been through four heart surgeries and was living on an artificial heart for two years before his heart transplant at UW Medical Center on July 3, 2018.

Transplanting a heart with Hepatitis C became a possibility in the last five years with the first highly effective medicine to cure the virus.

“All the stars finally lined up,” UW Medicine cardiothoracic surgeon Jason Smith told KIRO 7.

“Ultimately it took two years to get everyone on board and all the pieces in place and, quite honestly, for the prices of the medications themselves to come down to a price that is reasonable.”

Scroll down to continue reading

More news from KIRO 7


Smith performed the surgery on Hayes and has now done three other heart transplants with hearts infected with Hepatitis C.

“We wouldn't be putting an unhealthy heart into a patient,” he said.

“So what we're looking for are healthy hearts that happen to have Hep C in the bloodstream.”

Hayes went through the viral medication regimen and is now cured. The 3 other transplant patients are still going through the treatment, and Smith told KIRO 7 he’s fully confident they will be fully cured as well.

And it's not just hearts. On Friday KIRO 7 learned UW Medicine doctors have also done two liver transplants with Hepatitis C.

“This particular approach is especially exciting because we're bringing new organs into the field,” Smith said. “And so patients we're actually adding transplants.”