Media contacts:
Shannon Cloud, 404-712-7626,
Sherry Baker, 404/377-1398,
February 8, 2002


Emory Heart Transplant Recipients Celebrate Life at 14th Annual Heart to Heart Event

The women, men and children attending the 14th annual Emory Heart to Heart celebration this Sunday have different backgrounds and different stories — but all have something in common that has given them hope for a new, healthier future. They have either received heart transplants at Emory University Hospital (EUH) or Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), or they are on the waiting list for a new heart.

"All of us who have gone through this feel as though we are in a special club," says Stephen Demko, 53, of Atlanta, who found himself part of this "club" suddenly and unexpectedly. Demko felt his heart beating rapidly one day and made an appointment with his internist for what he assumed was probably a minor problem. However, his doctor recognized that something was terribly wrong – Demko's heart was rapidly deteriorating and no one knew why.

A biopsy finally provided the answer: Stephen's heart muscle was being destroyed by giant cell myocarditis, a rare disorder of unknown origin. Transferred to EUH in cardiogenic shock, Stephen was soon placed on a biventricular assist device – a pump that helped his own heart function until a new, healthy heart could be found and transplanted.

"The performance of my heart had plummeted from 40 percent to 10 percent in five days," says Demko, a mathematician and businessman. "The machine bought me time until they could find me a heart." He received his new heart on October 24th, 2000 and went home seven days later. Today, Stephen says, he feels healthy and energetic.

Missy Garrett, of Decatur, fought against cardiomyopathy, a chronic disorder of the heart muscle, since the age of 15. In l987, at age 33, she developed congestive heart failure and an irregular heart rhythm. The next year she was revived from cardiac arrest four times. Referred to Emory's Center for Heart Failure Therapy, Missy was admitted to EUH in the fall of 2000 to await her only hope for life – the heart transplant that became a reality in March of 2001.

"When I woke up from surgery, I knew I had a new heart. It wasn't a struggle any more," Missy says. For the first time in 25 years, she can now drive, run and play with her young nieces and nephews.

Lester Crowell's heart transplant not only saved his life – it transformed it. Crowell's family history is littered with tragic tales of relatives who died young from a genetic heart disease, a deadly form of cardiomyopathy.

"Ever since I was 13, it was a problem for me. I could never do anything physical, never sustain any sort of exercise," Crowell, 43 of Marietta, recalls. Three years ago, that changed when he received his new heart at Emory. "I've been working seven days a week, opening my new 13,000 square foot hair salon spa. I go bowling. I do all sorts of things I never could do before," he says. "I feel good and I'm very grateful to have had this opportunity to live and be active and healthy."

Over a hundred men, women and children will celebrate life this Sunday at the Heart to Heart event, which will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on February 10th at the Woodruff Health Sciences Building on the Emory University campus. "The Heart to Heart celebration is a fun way for those of us who have transplants to get together and share our experiences. We are all so thankful for our new hearts – and to the care and expertise we received at Emory," Stephen Demko says.

Emory Hospitals include Emory University Hospital, a 587-bed hospital located on the Emory University campus in northeast Atlanta, Emory Crawford Long Hospital, a 583-bed, community-based hospital in midtown and Wesley Woods Geriatric Hospital, a 100-bed hospital located on the Emory campus.

Emory Hospitals are components of EMORY HEALTHCARE, the most comprehensive health care system in Atlanta. Other components of EMORY HEALTHCARE are: The Emory Clinic, the Emory Children's Center, the jointly owned Emory-Adventist Hospital, and EHCA, LLC, a limited liability company created in collaboration with HCA Healthcare.

Editor's Note: Mr. Demko, Mr. Lowell and Ms. Garrett will be available for interviews, at the Heart to Heart event on Sunday.

Return to February Index

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center
call Health Sciences Communication's Office at 404-727-5686,
or send e-mail to

Copyright © Emory University, 2001. All Rights Reserved.