Father Clark Heart Transplant Recipient Pays it Forward–Father Clark's Story

“I knew right away that I was where I needed to be. My experience there was head and shoulders above the care I had received anywhere else.”

With an active life that included participation in college athletics, the U.S. Navy, the Marine Corps, and 25 years as a priest, Fr. Steven Clark was accustomed to helping others. But in 2014, having suffered from years of heart issues that finally required a heart transplant, Fr. Clark was the one who needed help.

A History of Heart Issues

“I started having health concerns in my 30s, and because both my mother and brother died at early ages, I decided to get a checkup,” Says Fr. Clark. He was told he had mitral valve prolapse in which the heart’s mitral valve would slip into the left atrium. A few years later he had a bout of Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), a condition where the heart’s two small upper chambers beat irregularly. Soon Fr. Clark’s AFib became chronic, he then needed a pacemaker and later a defibrillator due to a VFib condition discovered after a stress test. After two valve surgeries and the third cardiac ablation, his heart rhythm specialist said he needed a heart transplant.

Mark J. Zucker, MD Another heart specialist, who trained at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center with the Director of the Heart Failure Treatment and Transplant, Dr. Mark J. Zucker, encouraged Fr. Clark to come to The Beth.

Mark J. Zucker, MD, JD, Director of Heart Failure Treatment and Transplant at the Barnabas Health Heart Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center

Once on the transplant wait list, his condition quickly worsened and he was transported to NBIMC in the middle of the night. “I knew right away that I was where I needed to be,” he said. “My experience there was head and shoulders above the care I had received anywhere else.”

Tests were done the day after Fr. Clark’s arrival, and he was told he had to remain at the hospital to wait for a suitable heart. Fortunately, Fr. Clark had the angels in his corner, as nine days later he was matched with a new heart that saved his life.

Now Fr. Clark is a Hearty Hearts Volunteer at NBIMC, helping other patients prepare for and recover from heart transplant surgery. He enters their rooms in full clerical collar, and they often do a double take when they see him. “He’s one of us—he got his heart here at the Beth too!” says another heart transplant volunteer.

Fr. Clark is a strong proponent of organ donation and thankful to Dr. Zucker and the transplant team at The Beth for providing him with a healthy heart that allows him to live life to the fullest.