Giving thanks: a new heart, a new life

Rick Gilgenbach on November 22, 2017 (WLUK/Mike Moon)

FOND DU LAC (WLUK) -- We introduced you to Rick Gilgenbach last November. He needed a heart transplant. Last month, he got one.

On October 11th, Rick Gilgenbach got the call he waited 22 months for.

"Notifying me that there was a heart available," he told FOX 11 News.

For 22 months Gilgenbach was on the transplant waiting list. He had cardiomyopathy, which led to heart failure.

When we met him last year he was attached to a machine, keeping him alive.

"LVAP is a left ventricle assissting device, which, basically, runs the left side of the heart," Gilgenbach explained.

Gilgenbach's condition is hereditary, His father had to get a heart transplant 29 years ago.

Back then the Fond du Lac community held a fundraising campaign to 'Give a Heart to Gilly." They did the same thing this time around with "Give a Heart to Gilly Part Deux," raising thousands, and more.

"Just the little things, dropping off dinners to gas cards, you name it. The community's been huge to us," Gilgenbach told us.

And the journey is still not over. He takes many meds and visits the doctors every two weeks to ensure his body does not reject the heart

"Eventually it'll be every three, then every four and it'll get spread out as my body gets used to the new heart," Gilgenbach described.

Gilgenbach has grown close to his doctors and nurses in the Aurora Health Care System. They say he is the model patient: eating right, exercising...

"Goes out and does things for the community as much as he can as well and takes care of himself and his family to the best of his ability. So he's a model patient and just a really good person," said cardiology nurse Becky Haebig.

Gilgenbach told us he is now looking forward to living a normal life thanks to the person who donated his heart.

Gilgenbach asks everyone to consider organ donation so someone else can get the call they've been waiting for.

"For our family, it's very important. Somebody helped my dad, somebody helped me. Thanksgiving is here. We have a lot to be thankful for," he said, with tears in his eyes.

Since Gilgenbach's case is hereditary his brothers and children were tested for it, So far, only one of his brothers tested positive for a treatable level of the condition.

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