Brad Friedli

Nurse Rhonda Dennis monitors Brad Friedli's mechanical heartbeat at the Nebraska Medical Center. His mechanical heart was replaced Saturday by the living heart of a human donor.

YORK – Christmas for Brad Friedli came Jan. 30 when the York man was given the gift of a new heart by a family he doesn’t know.

Friedli was the subject of atn earlier World-Herald News Service story; he had been waiting for a heart transplant since September when the one he was born with was surgically removed and replaced with a mechanical one.

Friedli got what transplant patients in waiting refer to as “the call” last weekend.

He was rushed into surgery at 6 p.m. on Jan. 30. His chest was opened up a second time, 12 hours later.

“I was leaking, so they had to open me up again,” he said, explaining why Nebraska Medical Center cardiac surgeon Dr. John Um invaded his vital organs a second time in a single night.

During the few hours between the time the leaks were detected and finally closed, he was kept alive by transfusion of 34 units of blood.

“And I’m still here kicking,” he said with a laugh.

“I’m lucky to be here,” added the former York County Roads Department employee, who has now had his chest opened by surgeons five times.

Friedli said he was itching to get up and walk almost immediately after regaining awareness.

The medical staff, though, was having none of it.

He got in some steps Tuesday and walked three times on Wednesday, he said during a phone interview on Thursday.

“It feels like more and more freedom,” he said. “Every time I walk I go a little farther.”

Now he has to tow along with him a small, rolling cart for oxygen, an IV drip and the like, not the massive machinery needed to operate his mechanical heart.

The mechanical pump buried deep inside Friedli was driving him to distraction with its racing beat, the relentless staccato of the host machine and the fact that it created constant pressure pain in his head.

All those annoyances are gone now, fixed in – literally – a single heartbeat.

“It feels better, and there’s no noise … It’s a blessing. In a couple weeks I should be able to take a shower” for the first time in six months, he said.

He will be required to wear a mask the next three months “so I don’t catch anything,” he said, but it’s entirely possible he will be able to leave the hospital – as long as he doesn’t stray too far - in as few as two or three weeks.

He can no longer feel the heart beating in his chest as he could the mechanical replacement, but that’s normal for everyone and in his circumstances, a good thing.

“I can’t feel it, but I’ve heard it,” he said. “They let me listen to it through a stethoscope Sunday or Monday. I’m lucky.”

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