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Belleville resident John Pierce finally gets new heart

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Finally, the wait is over for John W. Pierce Sr.

The 55-year-old Belleville resident received a new heart Saturday in a successful transplant operation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pa.

“It’s complete joy and relief that it wasn’t going to be another dry run,” his wife, Deanna, said from the hospital Thursday.

The surgery took seven hours, including preparation time.

About six times throughout the past three years, Mr. Pierce thought he was going to get a new heart, but for various reasons at Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester, and the Pittsburgh hospital, it didn’t work out. With the past behind him, Mrs. Pierce said, her husband is looking forward to getting through the recovery process so he can go home.

Since Saturday, he has been in the intensive care unit, where he will stay for some time before being transferred to the ninth floor to continue recovery. Mrs. Pierce said he will remain on the ninth floor for about three weeks.

“It takes three months or four to turn the corner,” she said. “He’ll have to go to cardiac rehabilitation. We’re not out of the woods yet.”

She said her husband’s life is forever changed; he won’t be able to garden when he comes home because he can’t put his hands in dirt, and he has been advised never to go to a buffet, for fear of contamination. He also will be put on steroids and anti-rejection medication.

“He’s got a lot of hard work to go through,” Mrs. Pierce said. “In time, he’ll be fishing again.”

Little changes don’t matter, Mrs. Pierce said, because her husband is alive and well and has a new lease on life.

The heart transplant is the second major surgery Mr. Pierce has undergone this year. When he arrived in Pittsburgh in January, he received a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, which is a “mechanical pump that’s used to support heart function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts,” according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Mr. Pierce was diagnosed in 2002 with cardiomyopathy, in which the heart does not pump blood properly.

Mrs. Pierce said one of the most amazing feelings will be when she can dance with her husband without equipment attached to him.

“He’s not machine-free yet, because he’s in ICU, but you can see he’ll walk out of here with no attachment,” she said.

Now, he’s stable and looking forward to spending more time with his two granddaughters, daughter-in-law and son Cory, who received help from the Red Cross to be flown in from England, where he is stationed. The Pierces’ other son, Jay, drove to the hospital from his home in Syracuse.

Mrs. Pierce said her mother-in-law, Phyllis, has been by Mr. Pierce’s side since he became severely ill in Rochester and followed them to Pittsburgh. Support from the greater Belleville community has been amazing, Mrs. Pierce said.

Family friend Sherry L. Ruoff organized a benefit in February to help the family with travel, meal and lodging expenses. She has kept up to date with phone calls and social media posts from Mrs. Pierce.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Ms. Ruoff said of the transplant. “They’ve been through so much and waited for so long.”

Mrs. Pierce said she hopes that sharing her husband’s story will inspire others waiting for a donated organ not to give up hope. “Educate yourself and listen constantly to what doctors and nurses are saying,” she said.

For more information on organ donation, visit the Donate Life website, www.donatelife.net.

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