'Second chance at life': His heart transplant is built on decades of science, medicine

Rick Gilgenbach Jr. walks past his Fond du Lac house Monday, three weeks after receiving a transplanted heart. November 6, 2017. Doug Raflik/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin(Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

FOND DU LAC - Rick Gilgenbach Jr. is getting on with his new life.

There are still regular visits to the doctor, but he’s out walking and doing breathing exercises.

“I’m feeling good and getting stronger each day,” Gilgenbach said. “I’m sticking the doctor’s regimen ... and just trying to get stronger every day.”

The 47-year-old husband and father of two from Fond du Lac spent almost two years on a waiting list for a heart and then spent almost eight hours in an operating room on the night of Oct. 10 and 11.

Gilgenbach’s transplant at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee is built on the persistence of early pioneers who pushed through hurdles, low success rates, and — eventually — medical revolutions that helped save the lives of millions of people, all within the span of about 65 years. Continue reading

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