Chester Szuber's heart was broken beyond repair, until the death of his youngest child gave him a new life.
"It would be a joy to have Patti's heart," Szuber told his family as his daughter, Patti, lay near death after a car accident in Tennessee.Five hours and 51 minutes after it stopped in Tennessee, Patti's heart was beating in her father's chest in Michigan. The unusual father-daughter operation ended Szuber's four-year wait for a transplant.
Szuber, 58, is expected to leave William Beaumont Hospital within two weeks and have "essentially a normal lifestyle," said Dr. Jeffrey Altshuler, who performed the transplant.
He was listed in good condition Friday, four days after the operation.
His daughter, a 22-year-old nursing student and the youngest of six children, was visiting Tennessee with a friend before returning to school.
"The day she arrived she talked to my mother and said she was having a wonderful, fantastic time," her brother Bob said Thursday.
On Aug. 18, the car she was riding in went off a curve in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park about 40 miles from Knoxville, Tenn. The car hit a rock wall, careened back onto the road and rolled several times.
The driver, Todd Douglas Herbst, 24, of Royal Oak was treated for minor injuries. He was charged with drunken driving, possession of an open container of alcohol, driving on a suspended license and unsafe operation, said Park spokeswoman Nancy Gray.
Patti Szuber was airlifted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. Her family rushed from Berkley, Mich., to be with her. By Sunday, she had been pronounced brain dead.
She had indicated she wanted to donate her organs, and her family concurred in that decision.
"At the time we had no idea that the donation of Patti's heart to our father was even a possibility," her father said.
The family had two choices: give the organs to society or specify an individual on the national waiting list whom they know, said Thomas Beyersdorf, executive director of the Organ Procurement Association of Michigan.
Szuber was at the top of the list of 71 people awaiting heart transplants in Michigan, but not at the top of the national waiting list of 2,935.
He was suffering life-threatening heartbeat irregularities and had undergone three open-heart surgeries and two angioplasties in the past 20 years to clear blockages.
Bob Szuber said the fact that his sister's heart gave their father new life is helping the family cope with the tragedy. Her liver and kidneys were donated to others.