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Dianna Howell of North Albany is hoping to getting on a heart waiting list in either Washington or Arizona after Oregon Health & Science University suspended the state's only heart transplant program Aug. 24.

It's been more than six weeks since Oregon Health & Science University shut down the state's only heart transplant program and we're still waiting for answers about what happened.

For others in the mid-valley, the wait is a matter of considerable urgency.

Dianna Howell of North Albany was one of 20 patients on a waiting list for a new heart through OHSU when the Portland hospital suddenly closed its transplant program. The closure came after all four of the program's cardiologists quit.

It's still not clear what happened to prompt the mass resignations: At the time, OHSU said internal issues along with career and family reasons were responsible for the departures. 

Danny Jacobs, the new president of OHSU, has called for a review of the program to see if there's more to the story than that. (And, without prejudging the investigation, there certainly is a sense that there is more.)

Jacobs told The Oregonian newspaper last month that he wants an outside group of experts to interview the transplant team members and others. He has said that those discussions will be confidential — but promised that OHSU would make its findings public. The review wasn't scheduled to begin until October, and likely will take months.

Jacobs also said it was his goal to revive the transplant program at OHSU, but that will take additional months, if not years.

In all likelihood, Howell doesn't have that much time.

Howell is still waiting to be accepted into a similar program elsewhere. She has made trips to Seattle to meet with doctors in the University of Washington system, and while those visits have been encouraging, she's still not enrolled in that program. And she may only have another two months to live without a new heart. 

While she still has hopes that the Washington program will find room for her, Howell and her husband, Jeff, also are checking out a Mayo Clinic program in Phoenix.

Howell said the remaining staff members at OHSU have been supportive, calling frequently to check up on her. The hospital is helping to pay for her travel to Washington. 

All of that is helpful. But it would be particularly helpful if OHSU moved heaven and earth to be certain that each of its 20 patients left in limbo found a place with another transplant program. We understand that this may be difficult. But it also seems to us that this is something that OHSU absolutely must do — and it needs to do it in a hurry. (mm)

Cooperation and competition

If you need something this week to reaffirm your faith in humanity, may we suggest the Democrat-Herald's recent story about SWARM, Albany's combined high school robotics team?

The online version of this editorial includes a link to the story, but here's a summary: The Albany team this year is trying a new member on its drive team — the people who actually drive the team's robot in competitions.

The new member, Keely Kohlleppel, uses a wheelchair.  Kohlleppel found that she couldn't see the playing field from her vantage point. 

So the Albany team talked to organizers of a competition that was held this past Saturday. Did anyone have any ideas?

Larry Sheeley did. Sheeley is a mentor for a robotics team in Wilsonville. His son, Lance, has physical disabilities and used to be a member of the Wilsonville team. So Sheeley spent four hours building a ramp for Kohlleppel's use.

You read that right: Someone connected with a competing team went out of his way to give a hand to an Albany team member.

It turns out this kind of cooperative effort is part of the culture among these robotics teams. They call it "coopertition," and while we're not crazy about that newly coined word, we're gratified by the spirit it embodies. (mm) 

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