Mid-South man becomes longest-living heart transplant recipient to survive COVID-19


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thomas Bryant is the longest-living heart transplant recipient to survive COVID-19, and the second-longest heart transplant survivor in the United States.

Doctors called Bryant’s recovery amazing, especially given his medical history.

“To see somebody sort of grit it out and to make it through and be able to have the family come back and get back to life, that makes it worthwhile for so many people who worked hard,” Baptist Hospital infectious disease specialist Dr. Stephen Threlkeld said.

Making it to the other side was certainly no easy feat for Bryant.

“It’s been rough,” he said.

He’s spent the last 84 days at Baptist Hospital battling COVID-19. He needed a breathing machine four separate times during his visit.

“I was thinking about getting out of here and going home, you know, where I could eat and drink some water,” Bryant said.

COVID-19 wasn’t this warrior’s first fight.

The 71-year-old recently underwent surgery for colon cancer. He previously battled kidney cancer and a weakened immune system from a heart transplant more than 30 years ago.

“So all of those things made him a very high-risk person with a very high mortality rate, but he did amazingly well and basically just kept going,” Dr. Threlkeld said.

Through it all, he triumphed and became the country’s second-longest heart transplant survivor

“33 years—he’s lived an entire extra generation with his new heart,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “It really is why we do this. He’s lived a productive life. He’s a favorite of everybody.”

Bryant doesn’t want the credit, though.

“The grace of God,” he said. “I’ll always give him the credit, but all of ya’ll been good. God, he gave me the best doctors and nurses there is anywhere.”

“Mr. Bryant sort of exemplifies the reason we love to get up and come to work,” Threlkeld said. “Through all the darkness and problems and just the loneliness and isolation that particularly these people face.”

Now on the other side of this, Bryant is looking forward to seeing his family again and enjoying his favorite foods.

Bryant now heads to a brief stint at a rehab facility to regain his strength, then he’s headed home.

He looks forward to celebrating his birthday in August.

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