Chester Szuber had been waiting for a heart transplant for four years. But when his daughter died in a car accident and he was told he could receive her heart, Szuber didn't hesitate: "No."
"I'm not sure if it was a microsecond or a macrosecond, but whichever it is, when he came up to us and said, `You have first pick,' as quick as I can say `No,' I did," Szuber, 58, said Thursday.He said later he realized, "Maybe that's how Patti would want it." His family urged him to agree.
Szuber received his 22-year-old daughter's heart in an Aug. 22 transplant. Patti Szuber died in a traffic accident in Tennessee.
Szuber appeared healthy and relaxed at a hospital news conference. He sat holding hands with his wife, Jeanne, before reading a statement to the media. Eleven members of his family were on hand.
The father-daughter transplant was proposed by a representative of an organ transplant network in Tennessee. Officials knew of no other instance in which a heart was transplanted in a blood relative.
"I feel so good physically that I can't remember feeling this good when I was feeling well," said Szuber, who was released from William Beaumont Hospital on Sept. 2.
"Overall, he's doing fantastic," said Dr. James Goldstein, director of coronary care. "He is having absolutely no problems with rejection or other problems associated with a transplant."
Dr. Jeffrey Altshuler, who performed the surgery, said Szuber is walking a couple of miles a day and will begin a rehabilitation program soon.
As Szuber read his statement and answered questions afterward, he spoke in a calm, steady voice, pausing to collect himself only when speaking of Patti.
"The tragedy of (Patti's) death was and is indescribable," Szuber said. "The pain, the emptiness that I and my family feel can never be told."