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Revolutionary Heart Surgery Performed

CBS 2's Paul Moniz reports that a Putnam County woman has survived an rare operation: her heart was removed from her body while doctors repaired it.

Imagine Joanne Minnich's fear after learning malignant tumors on her heart could cut off her body's blood supply and kill her in matter of weeks.

Last April, her family says doctors at New York's Sloan Kettering performed surgery but the cancer returned.

Desperate, the 57-year-old searched the Internet until she found hope at the Methodist Debakey Heart Center in Houston.

In a seven hour operation, a team of surgeons, led by Dr. Michael Reardon, took Joanne's heart out of her body to cut out three rapidly growing tumors. The rare surgery, called autotransplant, had only been attempted three times before. Two patients have died from the surgery.

However, because only one in 10 heart patients ever receives a donor heart due to a shortage, waiting for a heart transplant was even more of a gamble for Joanne than the surgery.

A heart lung machine took over the function of Minnich's own heart for the 45 minutes it took for doctors to remove the tumors and make repairs using tissue from a cow's heart
during surgery, a tense twist.

After removing two tumors and placing Joanne's heart back in her body, doctors discovered a third tumor.

They had to pull the heart back out, cut out the tumor and then carefully lower the heart back in place.

Amazingly, Joanne, a business manager and mother of three from Mahopac, N.Y., is said to doing well.

Her husband, William, hasn't stopped praying.

"We have faith that she will be here with us next week," he said.

William credits the Methodist Heart Center with saving his wife's life. She is awake and alert.

While her prognosis is guarded, doctors are optimistic.

"If you can keep the organs that God gave you, you're always better off," Dr. Reardon said.

Also in heart-related news, CBS 2's Paul Moniz reports that a drug in clinical trials has shown promise for heart failure patients who often face a dismal outlook.

In a study of more than 5,000 patients in 16 countries with mild to severe heart failure, the drug Valsartan was shown to reduce death and increase the quality of life by about 13 percent.

Valsartan also reduced hospitalization by nearly 30 percent.

The pharmaceutical company, Novartis Pharma, will file an application for Food and Drug Administration approval early next year.

But on a lighter note, one remedy to make you feel better is having a good chuckle. In fact, a daily guffaw may save your life.

It's widely believed stress can contribute to heart disease by causing fat and cholesterol buildup.

But researchers believe laughter can alleviate that stress.

If you're already exercising and eating well, you may want to read something humorous or watch a funny video every day.

If you don't have time for that, just try not to take life so seriously. Being able to laugh at yurself is another way to relieve stress.

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