2019 Transplant and Organ Donation Calendar: Bruce Wrotny

Bruce Wrotny working in the garden


Bruce Wrotny’s garden is his happy place. During good weather, the De Pere, Wisconsin man is out there every day weeding, watering and ensuring that the many vegetables he grows are doing well. He takes great pleasure in growing his own produce and cooking it in his kitchen. Bruce has a particular interest in eating heart-healthy foods, since he received a heart transplant in 2017.


“I’ve got a second chance, and I’m not going to do anything to hurt this heart,” he says.


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UW Health Heart Transplant Program

Bruce, 63, was first diagnosed with congestive heart failure about 10 years ago. He was able to manage the disease with medication until late 2016, when he was so weak he could hardly hold his head up.


His doctors at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin, told him he needed to travel to University Hospital in Madison to talk about other options. He received a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), a mechanical pump that is implanted to help the heart distribute blood to the rest of the body.


The LVAD allowed him to lead a fairly normal life, but for him, it wasn’t a permanent solution. In the summer of 2017, he was placed on the wait list for a heart transplant, and on September 7, 2017 (his wedding anniversary with his wife, Julie), he received the call.


“The nurse said, ‘We have the perfect heart for you,’ he says. “My hand just started shaking. I couldn’t even pack my bags.”


After his surgery, Bruce felt better than he had in several years. He is now very active attending cardiac rehabilitation twice a week and working out on his own. During the winter, he is an avid ice fisherman, and in summer and fall, he keeps his garden meticulous.


He has adjusted his diet so he can make his new heart last a long time. He has contact with the mother and daughter of his heart donor, who live less than 20 miles away from his second home in northern Wisconsin.


“I’m back to doing all the things I liked before,” he says. “I’m working really hard to take care of this heart.”


Read more stories from the 2019 transplant calendar