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Groundbreaking heart procedure gives one Nebraska man new life

Don Sheard says he did the transplant for his four children, nine grandchildren and wife of 33 years.
Posted at 6:54 PM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 19:54:28-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A groundbreaking procedure is giving one Nebraska man a second chance at life.

Nebraska Medicine doctors call the transplant a "donation after cardiac death." The procedure has only been done one other time in the United States, according to cardiothoracic surgeon Marian Urban.

"Organ donation from donors after circulatory death is a very controlled process," Urban said.

According to Urban, donation after cardiac death connects the donor to a machine that restores circulation and blood flow back to the heart and other organs. Those organs are then used to save the lives of others.

This new procedure will increase the donor pool by 30%, according to Dr. Brian Lowes.

"This has been a historic moment for a heart transplantation in the state of Nebraska," Lowes said.

In the past, once a heart stopped, it was unable to be donated. Lowes says donation after cardiac death changes that — giving new life to people like Don Sheard.

"I feel like a teenager again," Sheard said. "I got things to look forward to."

Sheard of Elmwood, Nebraska said he is a very lucky man and is appreciative to his donor.

"Before I was just kind of just maintaining and now I can live life again," Sheard said three weeks after his surgery.

For the last three years, Sheard has been living of a heart pump, relying on batteries to keep him alive.

That's why he knew he need to take advantage of Nebraska Medicine's offer.

Sheard says he did this for his four children, nine grandchildren and his wife of 33 years.

Well, of course — for a little more independence, as well.

"I haven't been able to boat," Sheard said. "I can ride and do other things, but I haven't been able to get on the water and I do like to get on the water and do a little fishing."

This method has been used in kidney and liver transplants in the past, but this is the first time it was also used to prepare a donor heart for transplant here in the state of Nebraska.

In this instance, four lives were saved with this procedure