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Casey off ventilator; heart, liver doing well

Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey was taken off a ventilator Wednesday and spoke for the first time since he received a new heart and liver in a rare transplant operation two days earlier.

The 61-year-old governor's condition was upgraded from critical to serious, and doctors said both organs were functioning well.

"He was bright as a button. He was pointing at the tubes in his stomach," said Dr. Thomas Starzl, director of the Transplantation Institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Casey received his new heart and liver in a 13-hour operation Monday at the Medical Center.

Doctors ordered the rare and risky double transplant in hopes of curing amyloidosis, a genetic disease that prompted his liver to produce a protein that made his heart weak and stiff.

Doctors have said they expected the transplant would cure the condition.

Only six heart-liver transplants have been performed in the United States. Of the four performed at the University of Pittsburgh, only one person lived longer than a year. Casey is more than twice as old as any of those four.

Doctors won't estimate Casey's life expectancy because transplant technology is moving too fast for a realistic projection beyond five years.