After a six-year battle with heart disease that included numerous medications, trips to the emergency room and surgery to implant a pacemaker, 40-year-old Jim Fijalkovich found himself in the Intensive Care Unit at an Ohio hospital. Both sides of his heart were dying and he was in desperate need of a transplant.
TUCSON, Ariz. (Business Wire EON) October 8, 2008 -- "I swelled up like a grapefruit because my heart wasn't pumping enough blood. My kidneys and liver had started shutting down," explained Jim. "The doctors said my only options were to receive an immediate heart transplant or, if a matching donor heart couldn't be found, a CardioWest™ temporary Total Artificial Heart."
Doctors implanted Jim with the CardioWest artificial heart on May 26, 2008. After two months of life with the artificial heart, Jim, who was once hours from death, got the news he'd been waiting for.
"I had been really good about following the strict hospital diet, but a buddy of mine called me and offered me anything I wanted to eat," said Jim. "I told him, 'Heck yeah! Bring me a slab of ribs from Hot Sauce Williams.' No sooner did I get done sucking the meat off the last bone, my nurse runs in and tells me, 'Put down the BBQ ribs! We've found you a donor heart!'"
Before his transplant, Jim had been walking three miles a day with his artificial heart, two on the treadmill and one around the hospital floor. The artificial heart combined with diet and exercise helped make him a healthier transplant candidate.
"Before I got transplanted, I was pushing 450-lb 'Big Blue' for one or two laps around the hospital each day," said Jim. "It was easy, a piece of cake. I wasn't even out of breath."
After his heart transplant, Jim couldn't wait to get back on his motorcycle. On Sept. 3, Jim was cleared by his
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