10 years later, Midwest’s first-ever Berlin heart patient still going strong

(From left) Suzie Zobrist, RN; Jennifer Dunham-Ingle, PA-C; Michael Madrzak, PA-C; Vince Forseth; Maryanne Kessel, MBA, RN, executive director of the Herma Heart Center; Terry Forseth; Lori Grade, RN; and Dawn Forseth gathered recently at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s Herma Heart Center for the 10th anniversary of Vince’s heart transplant.

It was a happy reunion recently in our Herma Heart Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Vince Forseth, a strapping 17-year-old high school junior, and his parents, Terry and Dawn, got to see a lot of people who came together to help save the young man’s life 10 years ago.

Back in 2006, little Vince became the first person in the Midwest to be hooked up to a Berlin heart. This pump, which was developed to help a failing heart send blood out to other organs, sits outside the body attached by two tubes and is then connected to a large power driver. Before getting the Berlin heart, Vince was so weak that he could not breathe on his own. Afterward, he was able to roam the halls of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, building strength until a heart could be found for a transplant.

In the three and a half weeks he had the Berlin heart, Vince “went from flat on his back, unable to even sit up, to pushing that 250-pound machine around all by himself,” Terry said. “That Berlin heart is awesome.”

“We were walking all over the hospital,” Dawn said. “It was amazing.”

An inspiration to other families

In the years since his transplant, Vince has gone on to a healthy, active lifestyle — he was recently profiled in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for his prowess on the golf course — and has occasionally served as inspiration to other families with children going through similar circumstances. They see Vince and know that it’s possible to live a full, normal life.

The Forseths returned to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin a few weeks ago for Vince’s annual heart catheterization, and took the opportunity to mark 10 years since his transplant. Vince said he doesn’t have too many memories from that time. “My excuse is I was sleeping a lot,” he said. But his parents certainly do. And what comes to mind is the team that cared for their son, everyone from the doctors who performed his surgeries to the nurses who relished the chance to take care of him.

“There’s no way to say enough kind things about these guys,” Terry said. “They were just awesome through the whole thing.”

Ronald Woods, MD, PhD– Ronald Woods, MD, PhD, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon and surgical director of cardiac transplantation, Herma Heart Center, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

The Herma Heart Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is one of the nation’s top programs for medical and surgical treatment of congenital heart defects and heart disease in children.

Learn more about Ronald Woods, MD, PhD.

 

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