“I was a healthy person all my life. I have been a runner for a long time and have had no problems with my heart.” This was the opening statement of our interview with Nate, a 31 year old who just celebrated his 2nd “heart” birthday.

“It was on my daughter Mikaela’s first birthday when the problems started. I did not feel well and was sure that I had the flu. I just did not get any better,” says Nate. In fact, Nate started to go “downhill”. The doctor diagnosed him with endocarditis. According to Nate, “I had a staph infection in my heart and the infection had created a hole in my aortic valve.”

The doctors decided it was best to try to do a valve replacement on Nate and ended up doing not one but two of them. Neither of the valve replacements worked. The bacteria continued to wreak havoc, tearing a hole in his heart and basically ripping the muscle apart. Nate was flown immediately to another hospital and placed in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. “At this point my wife and I had learned that I needed a heart transplant and that my situation was pretty dire” says Nate, “I did not learn until later that the doctors were not sure if I would live week to week in my wait for a heart donation.”

"Although both my wife and I were stunned at what was happening, she was a trouper. My wife Genevieve really stepped up. She did not let the shock do anything to her. She held our family together and continued to work remotely from the hospital. She slept right there at the hospital every day.” Nate was relatively lucky. He was only on the transplant list for 60 days, which is a fairly short period of time.

On July 4, 2009 Nate was notified that they had a donor and on July 5th he woke up with a new heart! Celebrating “Independence day” has a whole new meaning for Nate and his family.

Nate has had no problems with his new heart and there have been no rejection issues! He recently was part of a relay team and ran a half-marathon. Nate is so grateful for this gift of life. “Not only was my life saved, but Mikaela still has her Dad and we also have a seven month-old daughter Sienna. She would not be here if I had not gotten this transplant.”

Nate continued, “we have not had an opportunity to meet our donor family but we have exchanged letters with them. I am so thankful not only to the donor family but to our doctors. We named Sienna after one of our doctors. Her middle name is in honor of him! Obviously organ donation has had a huge impact on my life and many of my friends have seen what it’s done for me. A number of my friends have signed up to be organ donors just based on my experience!”

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