Heart Transplant: Josef's Story

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Josef (pictured, with his mother, Mattie) underwent a heart transplant at UW Hospital and Clinics.



Josef, transplant recipient

Two years ago, Josef was a soldier in basic training at Lakeland Air Force Base. A healthy, physically fit recruit, he was pursuing his dream to serve his country. The training was exhilarating and his spirits soared, but inexplicably Josef’s body began to falter.


As the weeks passed, his energy level plummeted. With shouts of encouragement from his friends, he literally crawled over the finish line to complete his training test.


His next stop was the hospital, where he learned his heart was severely enlarged. Despite three years of excellent care under many different physicians at hospitals throughout the country, Josef's health continued to deteriorate. His physician in Georgia recommended a heart transplant, and Josef and his mother, Mattie, selected the UW Health Heart Transplant Program.


When he arrived at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, his heart was so damaged he was rushed into surgery for implant of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). Without this device, Josef's heart would likely have failed while he waited for a new heart.


During his recovery, Josef and Mattie talked about the things that Josef would do when he received a new heart. They discussed the beautiful gift of life that someone would give to Josef by being an organ donor. A few weeks later, at the age of 24, Josef received a new heart. Through it all, Josef fought on, thriving under the love and support of his family and friends.


Now back on his feet and feeling strong, he has embraced a new mission and purpose: to reclaim his health and make the most of the gift so generously given to him.