Latitia got a new heart and new lungs in 2023 – as Inova celebrates a record-breaking 50 lung transplants

In 2023, Inova established a new institutional record for lung transplants performed in a year, completing a total of 50. That number included four heart-lung transplants, our first HIV lung transplant and our first lung retransplantation with a subsequent kidney transplant the following day. Additionally, Inova has extended the upper age cutoff for lung transplantation to 75 years.

Shambhu Aryal, MD, Medical Director

Inova is currently the only provider to perform heart-lung transplants throughout Virginia, Maryland, and the Washington, DC, region. We are the country’s fourth busiest heart-lung transplant program and the 22nd busiest thoracic program overall, according to the most recent data from the United Network for Organ Sharing.

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“With the expertise that we now have, patients in our region do not have to travel far, even for complicated organ transplantation. Moreover, we can provide services to patients from all over the country. This is personally very gratifying for me as a transplant pulmonologist,” said Shambhu Aryal, MD, FCCP, Medical Director of Inova’s Sarcoidosis Center and the Inova Lung Transplant Program.

A lung-heart transplant recipient shares her story

Lung transplant patient with daughter and caregiver
Latitia Figgs with her daughter Greycen and nurse practitioner Meg Fregoso MSN, ANP-BC CCTC

Latitia Figgs, 51, was transferred by helicopter from Sentara Norfolk General Hospital to Inova Schar Heart and Vascular’s Inova Fairfax Hospital location in June 2023 when traditional treatment for her pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) – a condition involving high blood pressure in the lungs, stopped working.

Inova’s multidisciplinary transplant team immediately got to work after Latitia’s transfer. In the following days, transplant surgeons, pulmonologists, respiratory therapists, social workers and cardiologists met with Latitia to discuss her care. As with all prospective transplant patients, Latitia underwent extensive testing and evaluation to help the clinical team determine the best course of treatment. The team decided that in addition to a double lung transplant, Latitia would be best served with a heart transplant. Her native heart was severely enlarged from her PAH, and a heart transplant would help ensure the donor lungs would fit in her thoracic cavity.

Latitia said, “I expected I’d need both lungs removed, but asking for a heart, too? It just felt like too much to ask.” The transplant surgeons explained that both lungs and the heart would come from a single donor because transplanted organs that are native to each other work together more effectively than organs from multiple donors. The transplant team’s goal in recommending the combined transplant was to ensure the best outcome.

“I expected I’d need both lungs removed, but asking for a heart, too? It just felt like too much to ask.”

– Transplant patient Latitia figgs

Latitia was placed on the transplant list. She credits Inova lung transplant specialists Christopher King, MD, and Vikramjit Khangoora, MD, and her heart transplant team with successfully advocating to have her initial placement reprioritized for an earlier transplant, as she was critically ill, IV dependent, and unable to leave the hospital. Dr. King explained, “Our team is experienced in caring for very complex patients with heart and lung failure from pulmonary arterial hypertension and knows that current listing systems often don’t account for these patients’ severity of illness and risk of decompensation. Writing an exception letter asking for prioritization on the transplant list is one way we can advocate for these patients, which is what we did for Mrs. Figgs.” 

Latitia received her new lungs and heart in a combined transplant surgery on June 16, 2023. She recalls how almost everyone who’d cared for her physical needs at Inova also supported her emotionally, from stopping by her room with encouraging words to cheering her on in a parade of people with pom poms, balloons and music as she was wheeled to the operating room for surgery. Latitia shared many other examples of the stellar care she received at Inova. “I had peace about it,” she said. “When Dr. Tang said, ‘Mrs. F., we’ve got you,’ I believed him. I started praying for his hands the moment I learned he’d perform my surgery.”

A group photo of Inova lung transplant team

Daniel Tang, MD, director of Inova’s Cardiothoracic Transplant Program, said, “Caring for complex patients like Mrs. Figgs is a privilege. Inova provides the full spectrum of advanced lung and heart disease care from diagnosis, disease management, physical rehabilitation, and nutritional and psychosocial support, to mechanical support devices, transplants and more. This expertise optimizes patients pre-operatively and provides the intensive post-operative care necessary to ensure the best outcomes possible.”

Latitia’s surgery successfully cured her PAH. Now age 52, she’s learning to breathe again, working hard in respiratory and cardiac rehabilitation, and doing remarkably well. In December 2023, six months after her transplant, Latitia; her husband of 26 years, Dennis; and their 9-year-old daughter, Greycen, happily moved back to their home four hours away in Elizabeth City, NC. They had temporarily been living in an apartment near Inova Fairfax Hospital while she recovered from her transplant. Latitia and Dennis, both recently retired elementary school teachers, worked their entire careers at the same school, which is where they met. Now, they’re looking forward to enjoying retirement together. Latitia says she’ll never stop thanking God for the person whose organs she was gifted. That individual gave her a new life with her family and a renewed chance to feel healthy and strong while raising Greycen, who was only 2 years old when Latitia was diagnosed.

Inova – the Washington, DC, region’s first and only lung transplant program 

Inova’s Lung Transplant Program, recognized for excellence and innovation, is based at Inova Fairfax Hospital and has performed more than 650 lung transplants. The program routinely exceeds national averages for patient survival rates, the number of transplants performed and transplant wait times, according to the Scientific Registry for Transplant Recipients reports. The team coordinates every facet of patient care throughout the transplant process, from organ procurement and transport to transplant surgery, inpatient recovery and rehabilitation. Inova continually strives to increase access to donor organs as well as improve patient outcomes both before and after transplantation through cutting-edge medications and novel research.

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  1. Andrea on February 29, 2024 at 6:34 pm

    Wow that so awesome!!! Live life to the fullest!! I’m glad you have more time with your family and can breathe and do things with no issues!! Amazing story!!!

  2. Lora on March 7, 2024 at 7:40 pm

    Best team ever! DBL transplant recipient July 2022!

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