Greg Bordner has seemingly boundless energy. The 65-year-old grandfather of two still runs the magic company founded by his father in 1934, and he loves fishing and attending Michigan State football and basketball games.
It's hard to believe that less than one year ago, Bordner was on the brink of death from congestive heart failure — fighting for the chance to get a lifesaving heart transplant.
That Bordner did receive a new heart is a testament to both his own spirit and the two mechanical heart pumps that helped him regain the physical strength he needed to endure the rigors of transplantation.
Bordner's health problems began in 1998, when he had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery. He had experienced fatigue and weakness for months. But although he suspected these symptoms were related to heart disease — both his father and an uncle died of heart attacks — he hadn't gone to the doctor.
Within a decade of his bypass, Bordner developed a potentially deadly combination of problems: congestive heart failure, severe pulmonary hypertension and an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat. "I was dying," he says. "You could see it."
That's when he decided to come to Rush University Medical Center to seek treatment — a decision that saved his life.
Specialists with the heart failure, heart transplant and mechanical circulatory support program at Rush implanted an automatic cardiac defibrillator in Bordner's chest and put him on an aggressive regimen of medications. But within months, Bordner became increasingly short of breath and his symptoms worsened.
Because his heart function was continuing to deteriorate, heart failure specialists José Méndez, MD, and Barbara Pisani, DO, recommended a heart transplant.
Even if a donor heart had become available at that time, Bordner was so frail he would not have been a good candidate for transplantation. He needed help first — and he got it, thanks to left and right ventricular assist devices, which keep the heart pumping and maintain blood circulation.
Cardiovascular surgeons at Rush have extensive experience implanting these mechanical pumps to help patients become eligible for transplantation or as a permanent solution for those who aren't eligible for transplants.
For six weeks, Bordner remained in the surgical intensive care unit, where, assisted by the critical care doctors and nurses, he focused on regaining his strength. He devoted himself to his daily exercises until he was finally able to walk unaided. When doctors found a compatible donor heart, Bordner was ready — both physically and emotionally.
Robert Higgins, MD, cardiovascular surgeon, removed the ventricular assist devices and implanted Bordner's new heart on September 30, 2008. Three months later, after intensive rehabilitation, Bordner returned home, happy to be alive and grateful to have been given a second chance. "I'm not 100 percent yet, but I'm so much stronger now," he says. "My horizons are so much brighter."
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