Southern Middle School teacher gets new heart

Ferralli had returned to job fitted with pump

September 13, 2001|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

Three weeks after returning to Southern Middle School with an artificial heart pump implanted in his chest, teacher Steve Ferralli has a new heart.

Ferralli got his new heart at Washington Hospital Center. Doctors also removed the pump that had allowed Ferralli to return to teaching last month despite his failing heart.

He had expected to teach with the pump for months. But at 9 a.m. Friday, Washington Hospital Center called Southern Middle in Lothian and told the principal to arrange to get Ferralli to the hospital by noon.

By 6:30 p.m. he was in surgery to get a transplant. He suffered from inflammation of the heart muscle, and the left side of his heart was no longer functioning.

By 2:15 a.m. Saturday, Ferralli had his new heart and was moved to the intensive care unit. He could not be reached for comment.

"It's phenomenal," said Southern Middle Principal William J. Callaghan. "He's expected to make a full recovery."

Ferralli, 46, had taught technical education at Southern Middle for 25 years when, in February, he entered Washington Hospital Center because he felt run-down and out of breath. He stayed there until July 18.

Doctors implanted a 5-pound mechanical heart pump in Ferralli's abdomen. He expected to rely on the pump for months until the perfect matching heart could be found.

He returned to teaching at Southern Middle, where his popular classes are always filled with pupils. He wore a fanny pack with a battery-powered computer that controlled the pump.

"He was doing so well and had adjusted so well to the pump that this almost seems liked a mixed blessing," said Lynda Bohannon, a sister of Ferralli's wife, Sharon. "Neither he nor Sharon was ready for the call Friday morning. But fortunately, it happened and it's gone well and we're ready to get him back home."

She said all tests have shown that Ferralli responded well to the new heart and that he could be released from the hospital in one to three weeks.

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