For the media

First ‘heart-in-a-box’ procedure a success

By The Health News Team | October 11, 2022
Bea Tablit of San Diego

Bea’s new heart in the heart-in-a-box machine beating before her transplant.

Bertha Tablit, fondly known as Bea, understands what it takes to persevere. A single mother from Texas, Bea was having trouble breathing, but the issue was initially difficult to detect.

“My legs were extremely swollen, and I knew something wasn’t right,” said Bea. “I was admitted to Sharp Memorial Hospital for a pacemaker installation, but my energy was still extremely low, and nothing we tried made a difference.”

After more testing, it was determined Bea would need a new heart from an organ donor to survive. And in February, Bea was placed on the national transplant waiting list.

According to her physician, Dr. Robert Adamson, a Sharp Community Medical Group cardiovascular surgeon affiliated with Sharp Memorial, the biggest obstacle to transplantation is donor availability. However, a medical device called the Transmedics Organ Care System Heart, or “heart-in-a-box,” can greatly help with that hurdle.

Advanced Technology
“The heart-in-a-box is an FDA-approved device that allows transplant centers to extend their reach to increase the availability of organs to patients,” explains Dr. Adamson. “It also widens the distance the heart can travel. In San Diego, we are limited geographically in terms of a donor pool, so this is really a lifesaving technology.”

Kristi Ortiz, RN, heart transplant nurse practitioner at Sharp Memorial, explains that instead of the heart being placed in a cooler with ice, it is connected to a portable device that keeps it warm and perfused with oxygenated blood. “Bea’s came in the nick of time,” she says.

On April 4, Bea, who was suffering from terminal heart failure, became Sharp Memorial’s first heart-in-a-box transplant recipient.

A Long Recovery
Although the surgery was a success, Bea’s recovery was not easy. She needed to be placed in a medically-induced coma for several weeks. Afterward, she needed to relearn how to eat and walk.

“My doctors and nurses at Sharp were truly amazing, and I am grateful for the technology that was available,” Bea says. “I didn’t give up during my recovery and kept taking baby steps to move forward. This is just part of my journey, and I am grateful to be feeling like myself again. It feels amazing to share my story, especially as a Hispanic female.”

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one cause of death in Hispanic women. Women in this population are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanic women.

“In addition to our unique risk factors, females are an underserved group for a heart transplant, as only a quarter of transplant patients are women,” Bea explains. “There can be a stigma around heart attacks being a male disease — which is not always the case.”

As for Bea’s fight and positive outlook during her difficult recovery, Ortiz believes it may have something to do with Bea being a strong woman. “Bea refused to give up,” says Kristi. “Her perseverance was inspiring and she was determined to get back to her loved ones.”

Now, Bea looks forward to dancing again and enjoys spending quality time with her daughter and grandson.

“I am so glad we could help Bea,” Dr. Adamson says. “Utilizing the heart-in-a-box demonstrates Sharp’s commitment to advanced technology, both as an institution and as caregivers. Our ability and desire to provide the best care possible to our patients is the essence of The Sharp Experience.”

Learn more about heart transplant at Sharp.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Adamson, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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