First of its kind heart transplant gives Nebraska man a second chance at life

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 4:45 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A Nebraska man is living and breathing with a new heart today, a heart that was brought back to life and transplanted to replace his own. It’s a groundbreaking procedure doctors at Nebraska Medical Center successfully completed.

It’s called donation after cardiac death, according to doctors at Nebraska Medical Center. The heart actually stops beating. However, through their procedure they’re able to revive it so someone else can live.

The procedure involves connecting the donor to a machine. The machine apparently restores circulation to the heart and other organs while the organs remain inside the donor. According to the study, Doctors at Nebraska Medical Center used this method to transplant four organs, including a heart, for the first time on January 3, 2021.

It’s the first time this specific method was used for a heart transplant in the state of Nebraska.

“The technique used to recover the heart is unique and has only been performed in a very few cases around the world and in only one other center in the United States (NYU),” Cardiothoracic Surgeon Marian Urban, MD, PhD explained.

Urban explained the technique allows them to restore the blood flow through the heart before it undergoes irreversible damage. It’s been successful for saving kidneys and the liver as well.

The ability to recover organs after “cardiac death” would up the donor pool by 30 percent, according to researchers.

Don Sheard (70) of Elmwood is living proof it works.

Sheard has relied on an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) for the last three years to keep his heart pumping. He said he “was running out of time,” and agreed he would be willing to accept a recovered heart, knowing it could move him up on the donor list.

Now for the first time, his heart beats without the help of batteries.

“I just woke up like I was awakened. I reached for my batteries to change them since I had been under and then I realized, they were gone. The feeling I have now is I can, I can live,” Sheard said.

With his new heart, he added he’ll be able to keep up with his wife of 33 years, four children and nine grandchildren for many more years.

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