Bob Wurr receives new heart and liverSource: The Harlan Tribune
DEFIANCE -- For a few moments on the last day of July this year, the world seemed to stand still for Bob and Carrie Wurr of Defiance. After three years on the transplant list awaiting a new heart and liver, a nurse entered Bob’s hospital room at Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester, Minn. with the news they had been waiting to hear, a surgeon was looking at possible organs for Bob.
“Things stood still for a bit,” said Bob.
After five years of preparation, tests, paper work, evaluations, and numerous trips to Rochester, the day they had hoped for had arrived. The nurse informed Bob at 6:30 a.m. that morning that he could not have food that morning. At first the couple just figured he would be undergoing another test. They weren’t immediately thinking that this could be the day Bob would receive new organs.
Hard to describe emotions..
Three hours later at 9:30 a.m. the couple was informed that the transplant could take place that day. Bob says it is very difficult to put into words the emotions he was feeling the moment he learned the doctors had made the decision the donor’s organs would be a good fit for him and to schedule the double organ transplant for that day.
“It is a big big step, a huge step. I don’t know how to explain it, it was a combination of all kinds of emotions,” said Bob.
The nurse left the room and gave the Wurrs some time alone to think about the importance of this long awaited day. Carrie stressed that it was still Bob’s choice to go ahead with the transplant. As sick as he had become, the transplant was a chance at a healthy life but it was ultimately still his choice and his choice only to consent to the double transplant.
Bob’s successful heart and liver transplant took approximately 11 hours. The double organ transplant was scheduled for noon with the new heart to be put in place first followed by the new liver. Around 1:30 p.m. Carrie was told that Bob was on the by-pass machine so she knew the surgery would go on as planned. She spent surgery day waiting for the updates from the surgeons by herself at the hospital. The couple had made that decision from the beginning that Carrie would wait alone updating family as the day progressed.
Around 8 p.m. that evening Carrie first updated Bob’s pages on his care page web site stating “Bob’s got heart” telling family and friends that the cardiac surgeon said his new heart was beating beautifully. Later in the early morning hours of August 1 she would write on the web site about the success of the liver transplant.
Organs working properly...
Shortly before midnight, Carrie was able to see her husband in the intensive care unit for the first time. She immediately noticed his skin had color and his hands were warm. Both good signs that the new organs were working properly.
“I remember calling my dad and saying his hands are warm,” said Carrie.
Twelve hours following surgery, the breathing tube was taken out and Bob was able to communicate. The first few days following the transplant Bob had mentioned to the nurses and Carrie numerous times that he could hear a noise in his ear and that maybe something was wrong with his ear. The nurses examined his ear and could find nothing wrong. He was trying to find the volume button to turn down the television thinking that the television volume was too loud and that the sound he was hearing was coming from the television when in fact the television was not on.
“A nurse told him maybe he was hearing people in another room talking but he insisted he was hearing a different sound. Between the nurses and I we eventually figured out that Bob was hearing his heart beat for the first time in his life. He had never heard it beat before,” said Carrie.
Heart surgery at age 16…
Born with blue lips, Bob recalls not having the normal energy a typical child should have. At age 16 in 1980, he spent two weeks in an Iowa City hospital where he underwent surgery to fix a faulty valve and a hole in his heart. In his 20s and 30s, Bob felt pretty good but he always felt like he was winded and exhausted easily.
“I was always winded all my life but I didn’t know that I had a disease. I thought that was just the way it was,” said Bob.
Following his 40th birthday, his health began to change for the worse. He didn’t feel good and he noticed he was frequently getting more winded going on walks. At first, he shrugged it off believing he was just out of shape. He decided to make an appointment with his local doctor, Dr. Sarah Devine.
“I was just feeling bad and worn out and was having some chest pains,” said Bob.
After that initial appointment with Dr. Devine, she quickly referred him to doctors at Creighton who told him he needed further attention at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
In 2005, at age 41 he was officially diagnosed with non-compaction disorder/heart failure which means the muscles of his heart did not develop fully. Two weeks later surgeons inserted a dual chambered ICD (pacemaker defibrillator) in his chest and started him on several medications.
In June 2007, it was decided it was necessary for Bob to be listed for a heart transplant. Shortly after he was listed for a heart transplant, the doctors then determined after a liver biopsy that he would also need a new liver. Since he had the heart disease all his life and it had not been diagnosed until recently, the doctors were concerned that his liver had also been compromised.
The next two years Bob’s health slowly declined and in October of 2009, his status for a heart was raised after surgeons put a PICC line in him to add medicine to go directly to his heart 24/7.
Bob remained at home in Defiance until this past early May when he was admitted to Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester to begin the wait until organs became available. Carrie continued to work at her job at the Shelby County Recorder’s office during the week making the five hour 300 mile trip to Rochester each weekend.
“The time between May and July seemed to go pretty fast. The nurses on his floor at Saint Marys became like family and I received excellent care,” said Bob.
The couple and Carrie’s son, James, (a sophomore at Iowa State University) are so very grateful for all the support they have received from family, friends, co-workers and the whole community before and after Bob’s double organ transplant.
The employees at the Shelby County Courthouse organized a pizza and bake sale fund-raiser at the Pizza Ranch in Harlan this summer with proceeds going toward the couple’s medical expenses. A fund was also established at the Shelby County State Bank to help the couple with medical expenses.
Telling people about the importance and the need for organ donation has obviously become a huge part of the Wurrs’ life since Bob was put on the transplant list three years ago.
Telling their story…
This summer while Bob was hospitalized pre-transplant, Carrie spoke to approximately 120 driver’s education students in Harlan about the organ donor program. She told them how ill her husband was and how someone’s generous donation of their loved ones organs would give her husband a new beginning and a chance to live a normal life again.
“We just want people to be aware of how easy it is to give a gift through organ donation,’ said Carrie.
Just a month after she gave the presentation, Bob received his new organs.
Bob was released from the hospital on September 4. The Wurrs returned home to Defiance on October 14 after a three month stay at the Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester. They were required to stay within 50 miles of Rochester for the first three months post-transplant. The house is a home away from home for approximately 45 transplant patients and their caregivers.
Good first check-up…
In the middle of November, they returned to Rochester for a check-up and were ecstatic to learn that no rejection of the organs was detected.
Since his return home in mid-November, the 46-year-old double transplant recipient has been able to exercise regularly both walking first outdoors and now on a treadmill. He is grateful to be able to now have the energy to complete every day tasks that many people take for granted.
“I enjoy having the energy to run errands and do household chores like laundry and cooking meals,” said Bob.
He continues physical therapy sessions and will be making monthly trips to Rochester for check-ups. To say his illness, extended hospital stay and the transplants have been life changing for Bob is a huge understatement.
“This has changed my view on a lot of things. Things I use to think were important, really aren’t anymore,” said Bob.
The only information the Wurrs have about Bob’s donor is that it was a male under age 40. The couple has sent a letter of appreciation to the donor’s family via a third party system which delivers the message to the donor’s family. Whether the donor’s family wishes to read the letter or respond to the Wurrs is entirely up to the donor’s family. They have been told that some recipients hear from the donor’s family while others do not.
Throughout this medical journey, the couple has met many people with whom they still remain in contact with including others who had transplants whom they met during their stay at the Gift of Life House. Bob and Carrie hope people will consider registering to become organ donors.
They want to make people aware of how easy it is to give the gift of life to someone else. According to the official U.S. government web site for organ and tissue donation, more than 101,000 people are waiting today for transplant surgeries
The Wurrs say they are grateful beyond words for the gifts of organs that Bob was given from someone who unselfishly made the decision to be a donor and to help someone else in dire need have the chance to live a full life.