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Heart Transplant Patients Hold Pre-New Year’s Bash

December 31, 1985

DETROIT (AP) _ This was a year of second chances for 10 Michigan residents who gathered to ring in the new year a little early and give thanks for the gift of life they received in the form of new hearts.

The ″Happy New Heart Year″ bash was sponsored by Henry Ford Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Institute, which began performing the delicate operations in April.

″The procedure is so good in terms of the quality of life and that’s the drawing card,″ said Dr. Fraiser Keith, the program chief. ″Sometimes survival is limited to a matter of months, sometimes weeks or days.″

″I never realized how sick I was. I’d probably be pushing up daisies,″ said the program’s first patient, David Butts of Kalamazoo.

Butts, 38, received a heart from a 24-year-old suburban Detroit man April 23 because his own was in the last stages of heart disease. Eight months after surgery, he has resumed his job with a Portage management company and plans to get married in April.

Another recipient, Joseph Bajer, 36, of Warren, said he was leery of the procedure before he underwent a transplant Nov. 20, but that it has changed his life. ″I do my exercises and will be back to work in a couple of months. I’ve never had any problems.″

Beverly Reber, 40, of Battle Creek, said she has mounted the calendar date she got her new heart and has it hanging on her wall. Last summer, she had two heart attacks that left her heart working at 14 percent capacity.

Doctors never told her how long she had to live but she knew it wasn’t long.

″They don’t tell you, but you can feel your body going,″ Reber said. ″I couldn’t go to the bathroom; the things you take for granted I couldn’t do. Now I can and I like that option.″

Daniel Chartrand, 49, of Twin Lake, had surgery Oct. 27 because of an enlarged heart and congestive heart failure. Being told that he only had six months to live made deciding to have the surgery easy, he said.

″I’m very happy to be alive,″ said Chartrand, an engineer. ″I haven’t gone back to work, but I feel better than I’ve felt in years.″

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