The ultimate gift: Carmel woman receives 700th heart transplant at Ascension St. Vincent


A new heart wasn’t on Lisa Evans’ holiday wish list, but she became the 700th transplant recipient at Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis when her surgery was performed Dec. 10, 2023.

Evans, a longtime Carmel resident, describes herself as fit and active.

“The day before I went to the hospital, I walked three miles and did Pilates on a reformer,” she said.

For 20 years, Evans, 69, lived with the reality that her heart wasn’t pumping blood at a normal level.

“I got a virus, and they don’t know how I got it or where. I went to my doctor, and he took my pulse, and it was really low,” Evans said.

She was referred to a cardiologist who diagnosed her with idiopathic cardiomyopathy and put her on medication to stabilize the condition.

Doris Chisko and husband color
Doris Chisko, right, recipient of the first heart transplant at St. Vincent Hospital in 1987, with her husband.

“I was very blessed that I was able to function well,” Evans said.

Other than occasional shortness of breath, the diagnosis didn’t impact her active lifestyle.

“I walked with my friends. Not every day, but four days a week. And I didn’t have any problems. I was so fortunate,” Evans said.

In early December 2023, Evans developed a persistent cough. She saw Dr. Sunit-preet Chaudhry, an Ascension St. Vincent advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist who had been following her case.

“I think she’s a perfect example of somebody who was put on medicines very early and had a much better than average course from that point forward,” Chaudhry said. “People kind of have this gradual slowdown, and then all of a sudden, they kind of fall off a cliff, and they get very sick very quickly.”

Although Evans had recent setbacks, she said her family and friends were surprised when she was admitted to the hospital because she looked and acted normal.

“My ejection fraction, which is the pumping ability of your heart, was low, but over the years, it’s gotten lower. From 2003 until 2023, it decreased to 10. Normal is 50 to 60,” Evans said.

Evans was placed on the transplant list and received her new heart within a day.

“(It was) unbelievable. I was very blessed and very grateful to the donor family,” Evans said. “And I’m really lucky I got a heart as quickly as I did and didn’t have to get a VAB (ventricular assist device).”

CIC COVER 0402 Lisa Evans Chaudry headshot

Chaudhry pointed out that while luck plays a role in available organs, Evans’ smaller size and otherwise good health helped the process, as wait times are typically much longer.

After the transplant, Evans spent 34 days in the hospital. Her biggest adjustments have been to the anti-rejection medications and physical therapy.

“The heart has been great. I’m so blessed to have the heart,” Evans said, recognizing she would not have lived much longer without it.

As she recovers, Evans has enjoyed spending time with her young grandsons. She and her family have lived in Carmel since 1988. She raised two daughters, was a volunteer in Carmel Clay Schools and served on the Carmel Education Foundation for many years.

Heart Transplant Team Celebrating 700 2023
The Ascension St. Vincent heart transplant team.

‘It’s just a miracle’

The team at Ascension St. Vincent works closely with patients, their families and caregivers throughout the transplant process. It launched its heart transplant program in 1987, with Doris Chisko of Rensselaer the first recipient of a heart transplant at the hospital. Chisko lived 13 years after the surgery.

“(Organ donation) is the biggest gift that anybody can give and is the selfless gift for the donor and for the family. That person is living through somebody else,” said Dr. Sunit-preet Chaudhry, Ascension St. Vincent advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist. “The only way that we will continue to be able to offer these therapies is that we have to keep promoting the importance of transplantation and of being a donor.”

Lisa Evans, a Carmel resident who recently received the 700th heart transplant performed by Ascension St. Vincent surgeons, said she was registered as an organ donor before needing one herself.

“Everyone in my family is (registered as) an organ donor,” she said. “It’s just such a valuable gift to somebody, a second chance of life. It’s just a miracle.”

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