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Organ recipient takes next step to recovery

COLUMBUS - First step recuperation, second step rehabilitation.

Michelle "Shelly" Vulhop, the Lawrence County woman who underwent a rare organ transplant earlier this year has been released from Ohio State University Medical Center's Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital.

Her father, Ed Vulhop said his daughter's recovery has progressed well enough for her to be transferred from the heart hospital to the nearby Dodd Hall rehabilitation center so she can gain muscle strength.

"It's not the hospital, that's what's good about it - that's how much she has improved," Ed Vulhop said. "She's in good spirits and she's doing really well."

Shelly Vulhop will likely spend two to three weeks at the rehab center and may come home as early as July 4, if all goes well, her father said.

"She walked 500 feet the other day, I know it doesn't sound like a long way to us but after what she's been through, she's doing well," Ed Vulhop said. "Now we've got to get some weight back on her."

Ed Vulhop said he was thankful for all the people who have prayed for his daughter's recovery and have expressed concern for her.

Shelly Vulhop underwent a double lung/heart transplant in February, becoming the first person to have the procedure performed in central Ohio.

Even worldwide, the number of people who have a double lung/ heart transplant is rare, medical experts said.

Meanwhile, officials announced earlier this week their plans to expand the heart hospital. In a prepared statement, hospital officials said "unprecedented growth and higher than anticipated utilization of heart services" has necessitated the addition of two new floors.

The hospital was originally designed to expand upward with additional floors, according to Larry Anstine, executive director of the Ross Heart Hospital.

"We're very happy to be in the position to need additional space, albeit sooner than anticipated," said Anstine. "The demand for OSU heart services has been tremendous. Admissions, heart catheterizations and open heart surgeries are all up from last year and this trend shows no signs of reversing. …Opening of the Ross provided us with more space and a premier environment for our patient care, but it also has helped attract a stellar faculty and staff, and patients want to come to a facility where there are advanced treatments and exceptional care."

The Ross has essentially been full most days since it opened, with some patients staying in rooms in the adjacent University Hospital.

The new addition will provide 60 additional beds, 30 on each floor. The cost, $32.4 million, will be funded by the medical center through bonding.

Construction of the two additional floors could start as early as spring 2006.