CHICAGO (CBS) — The University of Chicago Medicine performed two heart transplants this Thanksgiving Day – bringing the total for the year to a record 55, and bringing an immeasurable amount of gratitude to two families.

A team of 10 surgeons at the U of C Medical Center began the back-to-back heart transplants just after midnight Thursday morning.

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The surgeries took about 17 hours to complete.

“You know, it’s like that the ability for us to change people’s lives and make their lives better, but not only the patients, but their families as well – and so it’s great to be able to give that gift, and that’s what we’re, as a team, very thankful for,” Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam, Director of the UChicago Medicine Heart and Vascular Center, told CBS 2 via a Zoom call.

The U of C is not releasing any information about the patients, but said both were doing well following the transplants.

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In a news release, the U of C also noted that the latest biannual data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients show that its heart transplant program is the best-performing in the country – based on key benchmarks for survival and how quickly patients can receive transplants.

The U of C had the best one-year survival ratio, the best transplant rate, and the shortest time to transplant for patients in need of a new heart.

“When you have the best survival and shortest wait time, you’re the best program,” Jeevanandam said in a news release. “It’s a proud moment for everyone who’s made this happen, but it’s even more important for our patients, who are getting the best care in the world.”

The data showed that half of the patients on UChicago Medicine’s waiting list had a new heart in just over a month, compared with the national average of nearly seven months. The time to find a heart for 75 percent of UChicago Medicine patients on the waiting list was just under three months, while the waiting time for the next-closest program was more than a year.

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The data also showed that UChicago Medicine has the highest percentage of African American heart transplants in the country, at 42.2 percent.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff