Hintz got a second chance at life when he was just 17 years old. For
Harry Schrap, it came at the age of 69.
Each received a
transplanted heart after his own was irreparably damaged by a viral
at life as filled with blessings, and this is just another one,"
says Schrap, now 71. "The opportunity to talk about it is another
blessing, to make people aware of how important it is to be an organ
Hintz came to
Milwaukee for medical care from his hometown of Plover, in central
Wisconsin. He underwent his transplant at Childrenís Hospital of
Wisconsin on March 18, 2010, after three months on the waiting list.
lives in Grafton, was on and off and then back on the list over a
10-month period before his transplant surgery at Aurora St. Lukeís
Medical Center on March 10, 2009.
As of early
June, nearly 3,200 people across the country (74 in Wisconsin) were
waiting for a donor heart, according to the Organ Procurement and
Transplantation Network. The national waiting list for all organs
exceeds 111,500 people.
experienced low energy and shortness of breath in 1999, he thought he
might have walking pneumonia. A checkup revealed dilated
cardiomyopathy, an enlargement of heartís ventricles. With his heart
working at only one-fourth its capacity, Schrap was forced immediately
into retirement at age 58.
helped for about eight years, but Schrap later needed a defibrillator
and a pacemaker. By early 2008, doctors began suggesting a transplant.
"This is when it gets to be a little scary," recalls Schrap.
Hintz was sick
one weekend in late August 2009, and when his mother took him to a
doctor in Stevens Point, they were told to go straight to Marshfield
Clinic for further evaluation. Just a few months removed from
competing as a sprinter and varsity high jumper for Stevens Point Area
High School, Hintz spent the following week in the hospital for tests
as doctors tried to determine what kind of virus was damaging his
heart. He, too, was suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy.
"It came as
such a shock," says his mother, Sabine. "They really donít
know what caused it."
Hintz was able
to start his junior year of high school, aided by medication, before
he suffered another setback and again ended up in the ICU at
Marshfield. Three days later, in mid-December 2009, he was taken to
Childrenís and placed on the transplant list.
To slow the
decline in heart function, both Schrap and Hintz were implanted with a
ventricular assist device. A VAD is battery-operated, mechanical
pump-type device that takes over some of the work of the heart.
do well with his VAD at first, but rallied and was able to return
home, where his wife, Carol, had a chair lift installed so he wouldnít
have to climb the stairs into their second-floor condo. Better yet, he
was put back on the transplant list and ordered to stay within a
two-hour drive of St. Lukeís.
After Hintz got
his VAD, he developed a painful stomach infection and had to receive
nutrition intravenously. As he gradually improved, he remained at
Childrenís, where hospital staff and his teachers in Stevens Point
faxed assignments back and forth. His parents and brother, Karsten,
then 14, visited on weekends. "I got used to it," says
Hintz. "I had a lot of people helping me through the whole
In an era of
instant communication, technology is only as good as the human beings
using it. It doesnít matter how many phone numbers the transplant
center has for a patient if nobody picks up the call.
Schrap and his
wife spent March 9, 2009, going out to lunch and visiting a friend.
"I had charged my cell phone the night before, put it in my
pocket and never turned it on," he says.
returned home around 5:30 p.m., the Schraps had a series of voice
mails from St. Lukeís on their home phone. When they called the
hospital, they were told that a donor heart had become available.
Fortunately, they hadnít missed out. "Youíre so excited you
canít believe it," says Carol, who sped Harry to the hospital
within an hour.
The night of
March 17, 2010, Sabine and her husband, Mark, had gone to bed, but the
pager theyíd been given by Childrenís lay, forgotten, on a desk
downstairs. Meanwhile in Milwaukee, Kilian was still awake at 2 a.m.
when hospital staff came to his room and told him he would be getting
his new heart within hours.
tried calling my parents, it was kind of weird because no one
answered," he recalls. "I tried four different phones and
eventually I texted my brother."
boys sleep with their phones," says Sabine Hintz. "Good
thing for teenagers and their cell phones and text messaging."
With the rest of
his family making the two and a half-hour drive to Milwaukee, Hintz
was prepped for surgery.
Ten days after
receiving his new heart, Schrap was discharged from the hospital. For
the past two years, he and his wife ó high school sweethearts ó
have been able to spend time with family and friends wherever they
want. Last winter, they drove to Arizona and California.
Hintz, now 18,
got his first car a few months ago and graduated on time from high
school. He walks and swims for exercise, and likes to just hang out
with friends. This fall, heíll begin studying accounting at
UW-Stevens Point, his tuition paid in part by the Make-A-Wish
Foundation. In about a year, he anticipates being able to reduce his
nice being back together (as a family) again, and we are thankful for
that," says Sabine Hintz.
When they get
the chance, both families urge people to become organ donors. The
Schrapsí two children already are registered. The day of Hintzís
surgery, several of his aunts, uncles and cousins signed up.
nor Hintzís knows whose hearts saved their lives. Any letters either
the donor or recipient want to send ó last names and cities are not
included ó are forwarded by the Wisconsin Donor Network and the
very sensitive and touchy subject," says Sabine Hintz. "They
lost someone and gave the heart away, and we have new life."
A few months
after he received his transplant, Schrap sat down with his wife to
write a letter they would place into a sympathy card. They kept a copy
for themselves, and as Schrap reads from it, he chokes up.
express my gratitude for the donation of a family memberís heart Ö"