Despite pandemic, patient receives much-needed new heart

Raymond Hill needed a new heart — and fast. The Fredericksburg, Virginia, resident suffered from congestive heart failure, and in March 2020, his health was rapidly declining.

During a global pandemic, he needed a transplant.

VCU Health heart transplant patient Raymond Hill relaxes on the MCV Campus.

“I didn’t think I was going to get one, but I prayed on it,” he said.

Hill prayed from his ICU bed at VCU Medical Center, where staff provided lifesaving care to him and other patients at an unprecedented time. Days later, Hill was rushed into surgery to receive his new heart.

Dr. Benjamin Medalion, professor and chair for the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, performed the surgery. Medalion’s expertise includes heart and lung transplantation.

Hill was critically ill and declining fast. “Those patients cannot wait long,” Medalion said. “That’s why we decided to proceed, with extra precaution that we could apply in this era of COVID-19.”

Remarkably, Hill was one of the 14 heart transplant recipients at VCU Health from March to July of this year. All told, VCU transplanted a total of 186 organs during that time, which also included 59 livers, 112 kidneys and one pancreas.

Today, Hill, a doting grandfather, has a new heart. “It sounds like a drum, a beating drum,” he said. “I feel great.”

“There’s no more satisfaction than knowing… when a transplant patient recovers, they’re back to normal activity and they can appreciate the new quality of life and new things they couldn’t do before,” Medalion said.

At home, Hill is adjusting to a new normal. And a new outlook on life, made possible by VCU Health. “Stay healthy, eat healthy and stay positive,” he said. “I got a new lease on life, so I got to take advantage of it.”

Hear Mr. Hill share his story: