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Greg’s journey to heart transplant began in 2009 when he was diagnosed with Heart Failure. Managed through the LifeCare and Altru Health Systems and unsure of the precise cause, Greg first was implanted with a device that would shock his heart back into rhythm should it stop or beat too rapidly. This Medtronic device is called an ICD or Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator. He had done very well with this through the fall of 2013 and needed to upgrade this device to not only shock his heart but also pace in one of his chambers. Then in 2015 it was upgraded again to pace in both chambers. This was working somewhat and yet Greg was having more and more shortness of breath and found it harder and harder to breathe and continue his normal activities.
In September 2016 Greg began having some frequent ICD shocks to get his heart back into rhythm. On his visit to his Cardiologist September 19th the possibility of a heart transplant was discussed which seemed unimaginable at the time. An October appointment was set at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester to begin the workup for heart transplant, which never happened. The evening of Sept 19th Greg went into what is called a ventricular storm or V-storm which is a bit like a short circuit only in the heart, the ICD kept firing but the heart could not maintain a normal rhythm. The ER at Roseau’s LifeCare airlifted him to Altru in Grand Forks where it was determined he should go to Mayo Clinic Emergency in Rochester on Sept 20th. The Mayo Medicalteam agreed that his heart was so weak that the only option was to replace his heart with a Total Artificial Heart as a bridge to Heart Transplant. On the 28th of September, 2016 Dr Lyle Joyce performed this surgery. Greg was kept in a state of sedation from the evening of September 19th through September 28th. He remained in ICU until the 10th of October where they slowly began the rehabilitation process. Due to the Total Artificial Heart Greg was alive but unable to leave the hospital and was placed on the highest level of waiting list called 1A status.
Greg was moved to a Progressive Care Unit the 10th of October to build back his strength to feed himself, swallow, walk, and toilet all while now needing to wait for a heart transplant. Greg’s kidneys were damaged by the heart trauma requiring dialysis. Later it was determined the kidneys were permanently damaged so he was also put on the kidney transplant list.
Because of his blood type and the potential Rochester wait time the team recommended he be transferred to Phoenix Mayo Clinic Hospital which occurred on January 19,2017. On February 21 a donor match was offered. Transplant surgery was done February 22 starting at 4am and ending at 9pm transplanting same donor heart and kidney. Greg was discharged from the hospital March 6, 2017 and is being followed very closely by Mayo Clinic Hospital Phoenix. Greg and Carletta hope to transition back to Minnesota in May with follow up in Roseau and Rochester.
What follows is the day by day experience of this journey back to health.