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Man Receives Grandson’s Heart In Transplant

March 6, 1987

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A 63-year-old man was conscious and doing well Thursday after receiving the heart of his 16-year-old grandson, who died with three other teen-agers after a car-train accident.

Thomas A. Nielson was in critical but stable condition following the Wednesday afternoon operation, during which his own failing heart was replaced with that of Jonathan Simper, said LDS Hospital spokeswoman Kathy Fraughton.

″He’s awake and alert,″ hospital spokesman Tim Madden said late Thursday.

″He can’t talk because of the respirator, but he’s communicating non- verbally, making signs and waving to visitors. He’s doing OK. The heart is working well.″

Madden said as far as he could determine, the four-hour heart transplant operation was the first in the nation involving a relative as a donor.

The signs of early recovery were encouraging, said Greg Nielson, the recipient’s son.

″Jonathan’s heart is beating very strongly in dad’s chest, and although he has not been able to talk, he waved to me and doctors have assured us that so far he is doing very well,″ he said.

Nielson began having heart pains when he heard of his grandson’s accident and was rushed to the hospital, according to his wife, Donna.

A few weeks ago, Nielson had been placed on a heart transplant list after physicians determined his condition was inoperable, Mrs. Nielson said.

Simper died of head and internal injuries sustained when the car in which he was riding collided with a train on a dirt road Tuesday night near Brigham City. Unable to breathe on his own, he was on life support systems at McKay- Dee Hospital in Ogden until he died at about 2:30 p.m.

The other three teen-agers were killed instantly.

″When he (Nielson) learned Jonathan had died and that his parents wanted Tom to have their son’s heart, he was reluctant at first, but he was eventually persuaded that that was what Jonathan would want,″ Donna Nielson said.

The boy had worked for his grandfather last summer at Nielson’s masonry construction business.

Mrs. Neilson said her husband and grandson were the same height and about the same weight. ″Doctors told us the heart was such a good match that there should be less chance of rejection problems,″ she said.

From the beginning, she said, the Simpers felt that Nielson should accept the boy’s heart.

″They felt like because his life was spared long enough for the transplant to be arranged, that was the way it was meant to be,″ she said.

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