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Man receives life-saving transplant thanks to health-care reform and a truck

In the most recent issue of Inside Stanford Medicine, my colleague tells the almost-difficult-to-believe story of Milton Gilmer, a man who literally drove himself to the hospital while having a heart attack.

Gilmer had been diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, a disease that causes abnormally high blood pressure in the lungs and heart, in 2006. In 2010, his condition had reached a critical point, and it became clear that he would need a heart and lung transplant. Gilmer's health insurance initially refused to pay for the operation, since the cost exceeded the medical plan’s lifetime dollar limit for this kind of procedure. Luckily for him, the Affordable Care Act that passed in March 2010 eliminated lifetime benefit limits.

Health-care reform was something of a deus ex machina for Gilmer - and it didn't come a moment too early. In early February 2011, days before Gilmer was scheduled for a heart-lung transplant at Stanford Hospital, a pre-transplant coordinator received a phone call from Gilmer informing her that he was having a heart attack. When she told him to hang up and call 911, Gilmer told her that he was already at the hospital. True to his independent Montana roots, he had driven himself in his truck. (Don't try this at home, kids.)

Gilmer successfully underwent surgery on February 8. He's happy to be back on his Montana ranch home with his wife, Donna.

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