Baptist Health Foundation Receives $50K from Family of Heart Transplant Recipient

Baptist Health Foundation recently announced a $50,000 donation from Bob and Jeanne Fitzgerald in honor of their son, Ryan Fitzgerald, MD, a heart transplant recipient. 

“This is a very special and exciting day for our family. We have the opportunity to help in an area that means so much to us,” the Fitzgerald family said. “We know that your extraordinary heart team will put this money to good use in helping other families through the tough times. Arkansas is so fortunate to have the heart program at Baptist Health and the caring team that truly gave us hope.”

Fitzgerald, of Radiology Consultants at Baptist Health, serves on the Baptist Health Foundation Board and the Arora Board.

The Heart of Faith Fund donation comes 20 years after his transplant and was also fittingly presented during American Heart Month on Valentine’s Day – a holiday synonymous with all things heart-related. 

"We are deeply grateful to the Fitzgerald family for believing in Baptist Health,” said Lena Hayes, chief development officer for Baptist Health Foundation. “Their generous gift will help our Heart Transplant Institute’s team of experts keep more hearts beating and save the lives of more Arkansans." 

Around 10 years old, Fitzgerald was diagnosed with a coarctation of the aorta, meaning a portion of his aorta was narrower and restricting blood flow to the rest of his body. After a corrective surgery at age 11, he continued living without any limitations to his lifestyle.

Years later, while in medical school, a blood pressure increase indicated a recurrence of the coarctation and doctors again decided that he would need to undergo a repeat corrective surgery. Due to a surgical complication, Fitzgerald’s condition worsened to the point that he would need a heart transplant. He was at Arkansas Children’s, which did not have a suitable device to fit his body at his age, so he was transferred by ambulance to Baptist Health.

While at Baptist Health, Fitzgerald received a heart transplant. Performing the heart transplant was John Ransom, MD, a cardiovascular surgeon at Baptist Health. Steve Hutchins, MD, a transplant cardiologist at Baptist Health, supervised following the surgery.

Fitzgerald’s experiences served as further inspiration for him to continue in his medical studies.

Baptist Health Foundation’s Heart of Faith Fund supports patients who are facing heart failure, that need a Left Ventricular Assisted Device (LVAD), or that need a heart transplant. The fund helps to cover travel and hotel expenses, equipment for their treatment, prescriptions, and other medical and non-medical needs. It also assists with the operational cost of Baptist Health Heart Failure and Transplant Institute.