Arterial transplant recipient celebrates three years of survivorship

In 2019, Dr. Danielle Mitchell became one of the first patients to receive HAV treatment after an infection.
Published: Mar. 27, 2022 at 5:31 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Few patients with persistent infections or contaminated wounds have received universally implantable regenerative human tissue, known as Human Acellular Vessels.

In 2019, Dr. Danielle Mitchell became one of the first patients to receive HAV treatment after an infection.

As a primary care and sports medicine physician by training and an athlete at heart, Dr. Mitchell had competed in multiple IronMan triathlons before her medical battle began.

“I’d always had this dream to do IronMan, and of course, Madison’s very familiar with IronMan,” she said. “I ended up starting to participate in that sport on a long-term basis. About, I’d say four or five years into that journey, I started to notice that my right leg was having some unusual symptoms.”

Dr. Mitchell noticed muscle fatigue along with significant cramping and pain while she was training for a triathlon in 2014. She was then diagnosed with external iliac arterial fibrosis, a rare but potentially disabling condition that affects blood flow to the external iliac artery.

She had surgery to implant a synthetic tissue graft on the impacted artery, but several years later, the graft became infected and began to fail. Her options were limited, with many carrying serious setbacks and risks.

“Whenever we get into surgical infection, there’s not a whole lot of options available to you,” Dr. Mitchell said. “Most of those options are pretty high risk.”

Her last option was HAV. With little data available on other patients who had undergone this procedure, she decided to trust her doctors and the scientists at Humacyte to gain clearance for the procedure.

“I felt like I had everything to lose because at this point, you’re being challenged with your life,” she said. “There wasn’t an option to do nothing if I wanted to remain a viable part of our planet from that point moving forward.”

She will soon celebrate three years of survivorship since her HAV procedure.

Dr. Mitchell said when looking at the advancements in biological tissues that lead to the success of her procedure, she looks forward to what the capabilities of the HAV product may eventually be.

“I think that as we start to push the boundaries and the frontiers in this type of treatment, I think we’re going to see more options unveiled to us from a public perspective.”

She isn’t yet sure if another IronMan could be in her future, but is grateful for the opportunity to be part of the process of shaping the future of medicine, both from a patient and physician’s perspective.

“The future of medicine is happening now, and to be a part of this is just incredible. Not only from a patient perspective, but as a physician who’s caring for others as well… to be able to see this happening and to be able to literally continue to have been a part of the process is really something amazing,” she said.

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