Rare Heart Transplant for Man With Reversed Organs

"I suppose, I hate to say it, I miss going to work," he added.

To increase his odds of getting a heart, Eigel was put on the waiting list at a second hospital, the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, where a whole new team of doctors had to learn about his rare condition.

In August, after waiting nine long months, they had a heart for him.

"It's going to be a neat puzzle trying to put this together in the right way," said Dr. Niloo Edwards, the chairman of cardiothoracic surgery and director of the heart transplant program at University of Wisconsin Hospital who performed the procedure.

Unique Transplant Surgery

Even as he was being prepped for surgery, Eigel couldn't quite believe it was happening.

"Until I wake up and it's over with, that's when we'll know it happened," he said, adding that he had "total faith" in his doctors.

"It's literally you are taking two mirror images and trying to make them match," Edwards said. "So it's sort of a three-dimensional Rubix cube and that's what makes him particularly unusual."

The operation lasted six hours as the surgical team worked to fit the new heart into Eigel's backward anatomy.

"It's certainly one of the most unique transplants I have done," Edwards said. "At the end of all this rewiring -- it sort of looked like the inside of a 1970s Cadillac -- there were sort of pipes and tubes running in different directions where they shouldn't be."

After the surgery was over, even before he was fully conscious, Eigel could feel the difference.

"When I actually woke up after the surgery, Dr. Edwards, the surgeon, was actually in my room," he recalled. "I noticed I felt perfectly fine and I thought, oh, it was a false alarm, I thought it hadn't happened."

Now, five weeks later, Eigel is doing better than he ever could have imagined, and he returned to Froedtert Hospital not for medical reasons, but for a ceremony honoring organ donors.

"Just being able to walk around, I don't have any -- I am not hooked up to anything," he said. "I don't tire, I can go for a 40-minute walk, just things I wondered if I would ever be able to do again."

Eigel and other organ recipients tied ribbons around tree branches -- tiny tokens of gratitude for a second chance at life.

"I am just so thankful," he said. "It's given me my life back."

More Information:
Froedtert & Medical College: http://www.froedtert.com/home.aspx
University of Wisconsin Hospital: http://www.uwhealth.org/

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