Grandfather is first San Diegan to have his heart and liver transplanted at the same time

UC San Diego surgeons perform double transplant
Posted at 4:58 PM, Dec 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-01 21:21:53-05

SAN DIEGO - A Mission Valley man is counting his blessings -- twice -- after he was the first person in San Diego County history to undergo a simultaneous heart and liver transplant.

"I was out of it. I was falling apart," said 54-year-old Frank "Sonny" Taitano. "My body was failing me."

Taitano waited 150 days on the organ donor waiting list at UC San Diego Health's Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center.

"There are only about 10 of these done per year," said Dr. Alan Hemming, who transplanted Taitano's liver right after another surgeon transplanted his heart.

"It's almost like a dance between the cardiac team and the liver team. It's something you have to get down and work very well with the other team, but it's always gratifying," said Hemming.

The odds were also against Taitano finding a healthy donor who matched his heart and liver. They had to match the right size and be available at the right time and place.

Taitano broke down in tears when asked about the person who decided at some point to become an organ donor.

"I know I probably would never meet them, but from the bottom of my heart I would like to thank them," said Taitano.

The grandfather is expected to be released from the hospital next week.

"I'm looking forward into going out and making use of this second chance God gave me," Taitano told 10News.