Heart Matters – October 2022

Heart Transplant Recipient Treated by Dr. Joel Schilling Meets Donor Family

ST. LOUIS — Writing the thank you letter was the hardest thing Darren Garmer, 48, had done in his life.

Not all organ transplant recipients want to write to the donor families. The gratitude for a life-saving gift can be difficult to convey to strangers — strangers whose immeasurable loss is the source of your survival.

But Garmer said he felt a nudge, from the pit of his stomach, to reach out to the family of Cheston Miller.

Miller, 30, died in January last year after being struck by a car in front of his apartment in Nashville, Tennessee. Garmer was a match to receive Miller’s heart.

The letter led Garmer and his wife to meet the parents and younger brothers of Miller. They met in a medical building near Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where the transplant took place. They also met with Dr. Joel Schilling, who performed the transplant.

Miller’s parents, Rhonda and Andy Miller, and his twin brothers, Jackson and Evan Miller, each took turns putting a stethoscope to Garmer’s chest and listening intently.

“I wanted to hear Cheston’s heartbeat, to know Cheston still lives on,” Rhonda Miller said. “It’s incredible.”

After the meeting, the Millers were going to join Garmer and his family at his home for barbecue. On Sunday, they planned to go to the Cardinals game, which happens to be hosting Donate Life Day in support of organ donation.

When Garmer sent his letter, with the help of a transplant organization, he did not know anything about the family because their identity was protected. He told them about his battle for life, how he prayed for them every day and how sorry he was for their loss.

“The selfless act of giving has saved my life; and along with myself, my wife, children and family thank you for this gift of life,” he wrote, sharing his name, age and a picture of himself on the day he went home from the hospital.

Garmer, a chef, has two children, ages 20 and 27. He had a heart attack in August 2020 that required a mechanical pump to be inserted into his chest. That pump kept him alive until he could get a transplant.

The letter prompted one of Miller’s friends to search for Garmer and reach out to him on Facebook. Garmer then connected with Miller’s family over Facebook as well. They eventually agreed to meet.

While waiting in the building lobby before the meeting Saturday, Andy Miller told reporters how his son had been athletic, a star soccer player and a brilliant chess player. He played the guitar, both left-handed and right-handed. He was a self-taught IT engineer. And he was a prankster, always making people laugh.

His brother, Jackson Miller, 27, called him his best friend, but also everybody’s best friend.

“He always believed in his family, any kinds of dreams that we had. He was the first one to support it and say, ‘I think you should pursue it. You would be good at that,’” Jackson Miller said.

But most of all, Cheston Miller was compassionate, his family said. As a 6-year-old, he begged his dad to fly to Africa to feed starving children after seeing a TV commercial. In his early 20s, he tried to donate a kidney to one of his father’s childhood friends, but he wasn’t a match.

Andy Miller said the family did not know that Cheston had signed up to be an organ donor, but they were thankful he had.

“We would all save our families grief if we go ahead and do that,” Andy Miller said. “Life is short, and it could happen to any of us at any moment.”

Cheston Miller also donated his two kidneys and liver, his dad said. Garmer was the only recipient who reached out.

“We are glad that he did,” Andy Miller said.

But the family understands how hard that decision could be for others.

Garmer told the Millers how his new heart revitalized his love for people. And how, with so much hate in the world, he wants to share joy and appreciation.

Every day, he looks for how he can help someone, he said. He lives passionately, never afraid to express his feelings.

Andy Miller responded, “It sounds just like the way Cheston was.”

Way to Shine!

“I wanted to let you know that I had an exceptionally good experience during my stress echo test. Nurse Devin Wicks and echo technician Amy Karl were both extremely nice and very professional. They explained every stage of the process and answered all my question very patiently. Both, were calm and very kind. It was clear that both of them are very experienced and well trained. I can’t remember when I have had such a good experience with medical providers.”

Other Way to Shine’s this month were for Tammy Harmon, Mindy Wood-Bates, and Doris Lehmann

If you catch someone in the act of shining, contact or send in an email to bolhafner@wustl.edu.

Dr. Kory Lavine Receives Leadership Award


Dr. Kory Lavine, MD, PhD, received the International Society for Heart Research- North American Section 2022 MCI Leadership Achievement Award, presented in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada at the section’s annual meeting on September 6th.

Nominated by Division Chief Sumanth Prabhu, MD, Dr. Lavine was selected by committee to receive this award based on his leadership, mentorship, and achievements in cardiovascular research. The Lavine Lab at Washington University School of Medicine focuses on developing therapeutics for cardiovascular diseases including myocardial infraction, heart failure, myocarditis, and heart transplant rejection.

Dr. Lavine gave a talk at the conference entitled “Discovery and Innovation in Cardiovascular Research”. In this talk he emphasized the importance of mentorship, both having been inspired by his own mentors and able to mentor students and trainees to succeed in their own careers. He also highlighted important aspects of leadership in science, including curiosity, willingness to be open to new ideas, and courage to change existing paradigms. Dr. Lavine also spoke about the Cardiovascular Precision Research Initiative, the translational arm of the Center for Cardiovascular Research at Washington University School of Medicine, of which he is the Director.

4th Annual Heart Team Summit Comes to
St. Louis

Join faculty members in the Divisions of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Cardiology at Washington University School of Medicine as they unite with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Ascension St. Vincent Heart Center of Indiana for the 4th Annual Heart Team Summit.

Cardiovascular Division faculty that will be presenting at this event include Nishath Quader, MD; Alan Zajarias, MD; Anubha Argarwal, MD, MS; Alan Braverman, MD; John Lasala, MD, PhD; Thomas Maddox, MD, MS; Jonathan Moreno, MD, PhD; Marc Sintek, MD; and Justin M. Vader, MD.

This event will begin on Friday, October 21, and conclude on Saturday, October 22, at the Four Seasons Hotel (999 N 2nd St) in St. Louis.

This joint educational initiative was developed to provide a forum to provide expert lectures and case presentations geared toward health care professionals who may be part of a heart team. The continuing education program is designed to meet the needs of cardiac surgeons and fellows, interventional and general cardiologists, cardiology fellows, cardiac catheterization laboratory nurses, and technical staff.

Attendees for the Heart Team Summit can attend the event in-person or in a virtual environment. To register for this event, visit the event’s webpage.

Barnes-Jewish Plaza Entry Demolition Work Continues

Demolition work continues along Barnes-Jewish Plaza in front of the hospital as part of the Plaza Entry Project. The East and West pavilions will be impacted by noise and vibration from demolition weekdays and weekends, 4 p.m.- midnight

Plaza Garage work continuing involves removal of concrete and rebar to create a large opening in Hudlin Park – west of the current garage lobby enclosure down to the lowest level of the garage – so the new garage lobbies can be built and the new elevators and stairs on each level can be installed.

Visit the Campus Renewal website to learn about construction taking place.

Health & Wellness

Flavor Beyond Salt

Emma Greenhill, MS, RD, LDN
Too much salt is not good for us. Unfortunately, many Americans get more salt than they need in their diet. Learning to add flavor to food without sodium is one strategy to use when monitoring salt intake. Below are some flavor enhancing ideas to keep you on track with your sodium goals.

Fresh herbs and spices

Parsley, mint, cilantro, dill, and basil all have nice strong flavors. Adding them to a dish at the end of cooking will help keep their flavor nice and bright.

Sweet and spicy peppers

Peppers have a vast variety of flavors. Red bell peppers are sweet, jalapenos are spicy and poblano peppers are a great in between flavor. Adding different peppers to your dishes can add not only to the nutritional content but the flavor profile as well.

Juices and vinegars

Citrus juice can add a ton of flavor to a dish. Lime goes great in salsa. Lemon goes great with chicken or in salad dressings. Orange juice and vinegars go well in sauces or marinades. Just a little of these strong acids can go a long way!

Make your own spice blends

Now that you know a few ways to add flavor to your food without sodium, which one would you be willing to try?


Pumpkin Spice Mix


  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

Directions – Mix all spices together and place in a shaker.

Notes – Add to smoothies, oatmeal, plain yogurt, nuts, toast, tea, coffee, muffins or pancakes to spice up your day!

References – Recipe courtesy of Taste of Home

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Serves: 1     •    Prep Time: 5 minutes     •     Total Time: < 10 minutes

Pumpkin pie smoothie


  • ½ cup canned 100% pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • 1/3 cup fat-free, plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix (first recipe)
  • 3-4 ice cubes


1. In a food processor or blender, process all the ingredients for one minute, or until smooth and frothy.

2. Pour into a glass. Serve immediately.

Recipe Tips

  • Cooking Tip: Keeping the can of pumpkin in the refrigerator before using it isn’t necessary, but it helps make a colder smoothie.
  • Keep it healthy: Fat-free plain Greek yogurt, which has a tangier taste and more protein, can be substituted for the fat-free plain yogurt.

References – Recipe courtesy of heart.org 

Do you have BJC Cigna? Remember that you have annual coverage to meet with me, Emma Greenhill, a Heart Care Institute dietitian. Call 314-996-8165 for more insurance information or to schedule an appointment.

Meet Your Colleague


Nicole Nichols

Senior Research Admin

Fun Facts About Nicole

How long in the division: : I joined Cardiology in December 2021, but I’ve been with Washington University for almost thirteen years in research administration.

Family: I have two boys, Tyler (26) and Connor (20). Our dog, Delia, is 14.5 years old and we also have a one year old kitten named Garfunkel.

Hobby: : I love to create things using my cricut, specifically making t-shirt iron-ons and vinyl decals. I also love to go to the beach and watch the sunset.

Favorite Food: Lately, brussels sprouts.


Bucket List: It was moving to the beach, but I did that in 2021! (I live in Fort Walton Beach, Florida)

Bright Horizons: Emergency/Back Up Family Care

Washington University offers support for families who need emergency child or other family care through Bright Horizons. After you register, you can use the Bright Horizons app to request care. Here are the details of the benefit:

  • Request center-based or in-home care
  • Request same-day care, or care for future dates
  • 30 uses per calendar year
  • Center-based care is $20 per use for one child, $30 per use for more than one child
  • In-home care is $7 per hour with a 4 hour minimum.

    School of Medicine’s Mandatory Influenza Vaccination Policy

    Fight Flu at WashU bandaid

    This year, WashU employees who work on the School of Medicine campus in a WUSM position or in a hybrid position, including faculty, staff and trainees, must receive the influenza vaccination and upload documentation to ReadySet by 5 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2022, unless granted an exemption for medical reasons or religious beliefs. This requirement is part of WashU’s influenza vaccination policy. Exemptions must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Dec. 2, 2022. Any required employee who does not submit vaccination by 5 p.m. on Dec. 16 will be suspended beginning Dec. 19, 2022.

    Information on obtaining a vaccine is available online at flu.wustl.edu

    Updated COVID-19 vaccine boosters targeting omicron now available

    Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsement, updated COVID-19 vaccine boosters are now available from Pfizer-BioNTech for people ages 12 years and older, and from Moderna for people ages 18 years and older. The bivalent formulas combat both the original COVID strain and the two most prevalent omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5.

    • BJC HealthCare started providing the updated Pfizer booster for ages 12 and older. You can make an appointment online. Going forward:
    • The original monovalent formula is no longer authorized as a booster for ages 12 and older and will not be given as boosters in BJC clinics.
    • The original monovalent vaccines are still authorized for the primary vaccine series and boosters for children ages 5-11.
    • Children under age 5 are not yet eligible for boosters.

    The CDC recommends that people wait at least two months since their last vaccine dose or booster to receive an updated booster shot. Adults ages 18 and over may receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine booster regardless of which product they received for their primary series and/or prior booster dose.

    Boosters are widely available at clinics, pharmacies and other health care providers. To find locations or a Moderna vaccine site, visit vaccinatestl.org or vaccines.gov. You can also text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations.

    WashU Med strongly encourages all those who are eligible to receive booster doses to increase protection against COVID-19 infection and complications.

    IT Tips: Cybersecurity Best Practices

    Washington University faces cybersecurity threats daily and you are on the front lines of information security. Although comprehensive cybersecurity policies and tools are in place, it is important for everyone to stay vigilant and help secure WUSM.

    • Use [Secure] in the subject line to encrypt sensitive email.
    • Only send what data is needed.
    • Verify the recipients before sending the email.
    • Delete email with sensitive data when no longer needed.
    Cloud storage
    • Only store sensitive data in WashU approved cloud storage (Box/OneDrive).
    • Only share data with those that need it.
    • Remove access when it is no longer needed.

    Keep up to date with IT news at the Office of Information Security blog

    Follow the Cardiovascular Division on Twitter!

    Check out our division account, @WashUCardiology! We will be sharing division accomplishments, announcements, news, events, and more. If you have a story about the cardiovascular division that you think deserves a social media spotlight, email bolhafner@wustl.edu.

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    Washington University School of Medicine Cardiovascular Division

    Follow Us on Twitter: @WashUCardiology