Pittsburgh man makes miraculous recovery after heart transplant

PITTSBURGH — Sept. 29 is “World Heart Day” and we recently sat down with a Pittsburgh man who’s sharing his story of hope after almost losing his life. Channel 11 Morning News anchor Katherine Amenta tells us about his incredible recovery and what he wants others to know.

“Everybody wants to go to heaven, but they don’t want to die to get there,” lamented heart patient, Mark Vincent.

Mark Vincent knows he’s been given a gift. Earlier this year, he was running out of time and desperately needed a heart transplant. Mark had already watched at least eight men in his family die in their 30s and 40s from heart conditions.

“Just talking...I’d start getting chest pains,” said Vincent.

He says his heart was basically functioning at just 18%. And at 68 years old, he only had 18 months before he was no longer eligible for the transplant. His cardiologist at Allegheny General Hospital”, Dr. George Gabriel, said that Mark, who was so full of life, was quickly nearing the end.

“Unfortunately, his cardiac disease has just progressed and progressed to the point where he really became debilitated,” said Dr. Gabriel.

But then, in April, the call came: they found a heart. Not wanting the gravity of the moment overwhelm him, Mark said he took his faith and a little humor with him into the operating room, telling doctors he was naming his heart “Bob”.

“I said, ‘Yeah, it’s a perfect name. I’m getting a new heart. Bob - get it? Bob Newhart,’” said Vincent.

Little did he know, how *perfect* it would be. Mark started to make a recovery that left his doctors in awe.

“The second day, I was in very little pain. The third day, I was in virtually no pain. Fourth day, I’m up walking unassisted,” said Dr. Gabriel. “And the doctor said, ‘there’s some things that we can’t explain. And you’re one of them’,” said Vincent.

So what made it so incredible? Look at what hospitals around the country consider a typical hospitalization for this kind of recovery - two weeks or more from the University of California San Francisco, 10-14 days from Penn Medicine and up to 15 days from Temple Health.

For Mark, on day six, with zero pain, he was told he was going home to his family.

“There’s nothing more we can do for you and it’s too dangerous - you being here,” recalled Vincent from the doctors. “He says, ‘we’re gonna let you go’.”

“Mark...really had a will to survive and I think that came through after surgery,” said Dr. Gabriel.

Mark says these “bonus years” aren’t just to spend with his family, he wants to pay it forward and help other patients prepare for their surgery.

“I got to give back,” said Vincent. “You know, I was given such a such a marvelous gift...my story is not about me. It’s about what God did. And what the surgeons did at AGH,” said Vincent.

Dr. Gabriel also said that Mark’s story is a powerful reminder about the gift of organ donation and how it can transform lives and families.

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