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In Memoriam: Lawrence Faucette

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The 58-year-old patient with terminal heart disease had received the world’s second genetically modified pig heart transplant.

dkotz@som.umaryland.edu (Deborah Kotz) | Wed Nov 1, 2023

In Memoriam: Lawrence Faucette

November 1, 2023   |  

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Lawrence Faucette, the 58-year-old patient with terminal heart disease who received the world’s second genetically modified pig heart transplant. Mr. Faucette received the transplant on Sept. 20 and lived for nearly six weeks following the surgery.

Faucette had made significant progress after his surgery, engaging in physical therapy, spending time with family members, and playing cards with his wife, Ann. In recent days, his heart began to show initial signs of rejection — the most significant challenge with traditional transplants involving human organs as well. Despite the medical team’s greatest efforts, Mr. Faucette ultimately succumbed on Oct. 30.

(l-r) Bartley P. Griffith, MD; Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, MD; Christine Lau, MD, MBA

(l-r) Bartley P. Griffith, MD; Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, MD; Christine Lau, MD, MBA

“We mourn the loss of Mr. Faucette, a remarkable patient, scientist, Navy veteran, and family man who just wanted a little more time to spend with his loving wife, sons, and family,” said Bartley P. Griffith, MD, who surgically transplanted the pig heart into the patient at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). Griffith is the Thomas E. and Alice Marie Hales Distinguished Professor in Transplant Surgery and clinical director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). “Mr. Faucette's last wish was for us to make the most of what we have learned from our experience, so others may be guaranteed a chance for a new heart when a human organ is unavailable. He then told the team of doctors and nurses who gathered around him that he loved us. We will miss him tremendously.”

Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, MD, professor of surgery and scientific/program director of the Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program at UMSOM, added, “We cannot express enough gratitude to Mr. Faucette and his family for enabling us to continue to make significant advancements toward making xenotransplants a reality. Mr. Faucette was a scientist who not only read and interpreted his own biopsies but who understood the important contribution he was making in advancing this field. As with the first patient, David Bennett Sr., we intend to conduct an extensive analysis to identify factors that can be prevented in future transplants; this will allow us to continue to move forward and educate our colleagues in the field on our experience.”

Faucette first came to the University of Maryland Medical Center as a patient on Thursday, Sept. 14. When he came into the hospital, he was in end-stage heart failure. Shortly before the surgery, his heart stopped and required resuscitation.

He was deemed ineligible for a traditional heart transplant due to his advanced medical conditions including peripheral vascular disease. On Sept. 15, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency authorization for the surgery in the hope of extending his life.

Following surgery, the transplanted heart performed very well without any evidence of rejection during the first month of recovery. Faucette was engaged in physical therapy and was working toward regaining his ability to walk.

“This is a monumental achievement, and it takes Herculean efforts to move the transplant field forward,” said Christine Lau, MD, MBA, the Dr. Robert W. Buxton Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery at UMSOM and surgeon-in-chief at UMMC. “Lung transplants took decades to perfect, and the giants of those days carried a lot on their shoulders. Drs. Griffith, Mohiuddin and their entire treatment team, as well as Mr. Faucette and his family, are our heroes of today.”

Statement from the patient’s wife, Ann Faucette

Larry started this journey with an open mind and complete confidence in Dr. Griffith and his staff. He knew his time with us was short, and this was his last chance to do for others. He never imagined he would survive as long as he did, or provide as much data to the xenotransplant program. He was a man who was always thinking of others, especially myself and his two sons. The kindness and selfless acts of others were not unnoticed. Larry was consistently telling the nurses, support staff, and doctors how much he appreciated what they were doing for him. He was not only thinking about how this journey was helping to advance the xenotransplant program, but how it affected his family. An example is his last night when he was lying in the bed contemplating the end and worrying about his sister and if she had slept yet. Larry's family continues to be in awe of the man that he was and how he has shaped our lives. He can never be forgotten.

The family thanks the staff at the University of Maryland Medical Center for the care given to Larry and the support given to family members through their many days. 

Larry's family would also like to thank David Bennett Sr.’s, family for having the courage to be number one and the support they provided to us. We look forward to advancement and success in the field of xenotransplantation.