State’s first artificial heart patient goes home
Greg Rathe, Nebraska’s first artificial heart recipient, gets final instructions from heart failure specialist Eugenia Raichlin, MD, prior to leaving the hospital following a heart-kidney transplant.
In the hours before Greg Rathe, Nebraska’s first artificial heart patient, left The Nebraska Medical Center, he donned a blue ball cap with a bright red and yellow Superman logo. At 111 pounds, down from his usual 155, he might not have looked the part, but considering what the Weeping Water, Neb., man had been through over the past few months, the hat couldn’t have been more fitting.
“I honestly didn’t think I was gonna make it through this time,” recalls the 42-year-old Rathe, moments after gulping down his second chocolate malt of the day. “I got 16 years out of my first heart transplant, which is pretty good. But without the artificial heart, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
A few days after receiving the artificial heart on March 14, Rathe looked every bit the part of man who was extremely sick. “I was tired, I know,” he remembers. “I didn’t think I looked that bad. But everybody says I did.” Now, just weeks after receiving a new heart and kidney as well, Rathe looked markedly different – alert, talkative and ready to go home to friends and his favorite fishing hole.
“It’s a big victory,” says Eugenia Raichlin, MD, Rathe’s heart failure specialist. “He’s a very strong person, so I’m not surprised. I’m pleased.”
John Um, MD and Michael Moulton, MD, performed the heart transplant and Michael Morris, MD, completed the kidney procedure in an 11-hour operation May 17.
Rathe says he immediately felt better when he woke up. “You can just breathe. You can feel your body again.”
The former truck driver plans to do some walking and swimming to get his strength back and lift some weights to start rebuilding the muscle in his arms, which are now “just sticks,” he says.
And in the not-too-distant-future, Rathe will get a chance to do what he really loves. He’ll go camping and fishing.