2018 Transplant and Organ Donation Calendar: Dick Kreibich

Dick Kreibich wanted to live long enough to see his then 3-year-old son grow up. Thanks to a donor heart, he did.


When Dick Kreibich was facing a heart transplant at age 58, he had two goals: He wanted to see his 3-year-old son, Alex, grow up, and he hoped to live long enough to watch the Chicago Cubs win the World Series. Now 84 and living in Milton, Wisconsin, Dick was able to witness the Cubbies’ road to the championship in October 2016 with his 28-year-old son by his side — and the heart he received in May 1992 at University Hospital beating with pride in his chest.


Then and Now


Then: Ventricular assis devices were large and cumbersome.


Now: They are very small, allowing patients a much higher quality of life.


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Starting in his 50s, Dick suffered from cardiomyopathy arrhythmia. When he failed to improve with medications and an implantable cardiac defibrillator, he began checking out area transplant centers. He and his wife, Leslie, considered another facility, but ultimately chose University Hospital because the staff there was more personable and attentive to his needs. He was on the wait list for 14 months before receiving the gift of life. “It was a miracle that Dick made it for those 14 months,” says Leslie.


Dick was admitted to the hospital the week before Memorial Day with life-threatening heart problems. While he was in Madison, his mother was living her last days at a hospital in Green Bay, praying the rosary over and over for him. The same night Dick received his heart transplant, his mother passed away. “She died knowing her only son had finally gotten the heart he needed,” says Dick.


For the first part of his life, Dick had worked full time while his first wife took care of their three daughters. Then, after she died at age 48, he married Leslie and had a fourth child, Alex. After his transplant, Dick was able to stay home and care for Alex.


In the 25 years since his transplant, Dick has gotten to know six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. A Korean War veteran, he participated in a VetsRoll trip to Washington, D.C. in May 2016 to see the war monuments, Arlington National Cemetery and other sights. And, of course, he watched the Cubs take home the top prize. And through it all, his heart has continued to beat strongly.


“I’m grateful I have been able to experience and see so much,” says Dick. “I think about my donor every day. She’s one of my best friends.”


Read more stories from the 2018 calendar