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Utahn survives 18 heart attacks, 'monumental' life-saving dual transplant surgery

Published: Thursday, May 30 2013 5:55 p.m. MDT

"From a medical and surgical perspective, it all went according to plan," he said.

In the last 20 years, only 132 combined heart and liver transplants have been performed on adults and children in the U.S., according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Only 11 of the dual transplants have been performed within the UNOS-designated region of the country that includes Utah, Arizona, California and New Mexico.

The first of its kind performed on a child in Utah was done at Primary Children's Medical Center last year.

Salt Lake City-based Intermountain has one of the most successful organ transplant programs in the country, boasting a 100 percent survival rate for the past three years, according to Dr. Kent Jones, a surgeon who participated in the organization's first transplant in 1985 at LDS Hospital and retrieved the heart that ended up in Mader's chest.

Jones said innovative procedures, like Mader's, opens the door to other patients looking for options for survival. He said pulling off the two complicated procedures is "monumental."

Mader was released from the hospital on May 6, already feeling better. He said he almost instantly had more energy, isn't short of breath, sleeps better and thinks more clearly.

Like any mother might be, Nab is proud of her son for holding on so long. She couldn't bear the thought of losing a son so young.

Not long ago, she said he was unable to carry a basket of his own laundry or make it across the street before the light would change, but he's now able to do all that, as well as date and plan for a pain-free life ahead.

"He is going to be set free," Nab said. "It's like having the whole world in front of you. It wouldn't be possible without organ donation."

Mader already enjoys increased levels of physical activity, looks forward to travelling more, as being on the transplant list kept him close to home, and finishing school so that he can "meet goals and be a normal person for once," he said.

He's also hoping to someday beat his younger, marathon-running sister in a foot race.

"I'll still be watching my diet closely. I want to be as healthy as I can, but there shouldn't be any limitations like there were before," he said. "Doctors say I could run a marathon if I wanted."

For the first time, in as long as he can remember, the now vibrant man said he is "looking forward to a healthy life."

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards

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