First heart-kidney transplant performed in Colorado, a first in the state

Man suffered massive heart attack in early 2015


It's a Colorado first: Doctors at University of Colorado Hospital performed a heart and kidney transplant and saved a man's life in the process.

Colorado native Sam Johns was always a big man with a big heart.

“Yeah, I’m down to about 185 [pounds]. Before I went in I was about 260 pounds,” he said.

The 53-year-old suffered a massive heart attack earlier this year.

“They said that my heart was [way too] damaged, and when I got the heart damage, it damaged my kidneys,” he said.

Johns needed a heart and a kidney, but finding the organs to fit his 6-foot, 4-inch frame was a tall order.           

“We didn't think we were going to make it. We were told he wasn't going to make it,” said his wife, Lori Johns.

Then the phone call came for a first-of its kind surgery.

“They told me they had never done it before but they told me they can do it,” Johns said.

Heart surgery came first. It was six hours long.           

“And then they waited a few hours to make sure I was stable on the heart, then they went in and did the kidney,” he said.

“It is unique because this was the first time we did a combined heart kidney in our program. I think it is a major milestone for us,” said Dr. Ashok Babu, cardiac transplant surgeon with the University of Colorado Hospital.

In Colorado, more than 40 people are waiting for a heart transplant, almost two thousand are waiting for a kidney.

For more information of organ donation, visit

The Johns family has started a GoFundMe page to help with medical bills.


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