Veteran travels to Richmond for life-saving transplant at McGuire VA


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Some people call surgical teams miracle workers. One North Carolina veteran told 8News he’s alive thanks to the team at McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond.

Just weeks ago, 8News got an inside look at the new operating rooms at the McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond. The operating rooms give surgeons more space to do their lifesaving work.

The only sign that Sanjeev Dang was once a patient at Richmond’s VA hospital is the face mask he wore while being checked out Wednesday. Dang’s chest tells a different story.

“It was getting worse and worse,” Dang told 8News.

Dang says he served four years in the Army more than three decades ago.

“I joined service because my oldest daughter was born and I didn’t have health insurance then,” Dang said.

Decades later, he had no idea his time in uniform would qualify him for the life-saving operation. Dang’s heart was quickly failing.

“Had two strokes and then they said this is not gonna work,” Dang explained.

Dang waited three and a half years for a heart at a hospital in North Carolina. As a veteran, Dang learned he was able to travel to the VA hospital in Richmond for care.

McGuire is home to the only in-house heart-transplant program throughout the VA hospital system. Dang was so sick, he was near the top of the wait list when he arrived in Virginia.

“So, six days later I got a heart offer,” he said, “and I accepted it.”

Roughly five weeks after his operation, Dang’s surgeon says he’s thrilled to see his strength.

“See the patient do so well and recover so promptly that is one of the positive feedbacks that helps us through the dark hours of waiting and accepting and operating,” said Dr. Gundars Katlaps, Assistant Professor Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at McGuire VAMC.

Dang has a new lease on life, saying he’ll be around another 50 years.

“Highly urge everyone to make sure they are organ donors because once you pass away,” Dang said, “you’re not going to take anything with you.”

Dang’s heart transplant was one of eight that have already been done this year at McGuire.

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