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Hope found in Cleveland on National Donor Day

Posted at 7:17 AM, Feb 15, 2023

CLEVELAND — Love is the hallmark of Valentine’s Day, which is fitting because it’s also National Donor Day. And perhaps there’s no greater act of love than the gift of life.

It is what a Florida couple says they received in Cleveland and are forever grateful.

Jack and Barb Goltz are once again where they love to be -- dancing through life in each other’s arms.

"You know, for me, every time I look at Jack I think, 'What a miracle!'” Barb Goltz said.

In 2020, Jack Goltz learned he needed a heart transplant. It was his last hope to live after a decade of fighting heart failure.

However, at 75, Goltz says his doctors in Florida told him he was too old to get a new heart through their program.

"It was so disappointing to know he'd done everything right and everything they'd asked for all those years, only to then be told he'd have to start palliative care," recalled Barb Goltz.

"I went hunting for other transplant places and was turned down by all of them except Cleveland Clinic,” said Jack Goltz.

Goltz, who was otherwise healthy, had an evaluation and eventually surgery at the Cleveland Clinic main campus.

He spent 10 months recovering at the Transplant House of Cleveland.

Now, almost two and a half years since his heart transplant, Goltz says he’s feeling great.

He was just back at the clinic for a check-up with his doctors where they told him everything looks good.

"I'm living a normal life," he said. "I’m very thankful.”

A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in June of 2021 found that out of the more than 37,000 adult patients who underwent heart transplants between 2000 to 2018, about 2% were 70 and older and fared just as well as younger patients. The study concluded that chronological age alone should not constitute a contraindication for heart transplantation, although careful patient selection criteria should be applied.

Dr. Charlie Miller, Enterprise Director of Transplantation at Cleveland Clinic, says it's a clinical judgment. He says it is about having the experience and expertise and knowing you can get good results.

Last year, Cleveland Clinic again reached record levels of organ transplants with 1,050 performed, including heart, kidney, liver, intestine, and lung.

Nationwide, annual records for organ transplants were also again set in 2022.

"I think it’s really important to make sure people know how grateful the patients are for being able to receive the gift of life," Miller said. "I mean, it’s amazing.”

The Goltzes recognize that the gift of life has also given them the gift of more time together, and they don't waste a minute.

The high school sweethearts have been married 55 years and say they cannot wait to soon embark on a Disney cruise with their grandchildren.

"Every day is a treasure," said Barb Goltz.

"I hope this helps encourage people to become a donor because it makes such a huge difference – it’s made my life," Jack Goltz said. "Every year I get to celebrate a new birthday!”

He says he just sent a letter to his heart donor’s family. He is hoping they’ll want to meet so he can tell them how sorry he is for their loss, but also thank them in person for the gift of life.

It is important to note, just as there's no age limit to receive an organ transplant, there's also no age limit to donate.

In fact, recently in the U.S., a 92-year-old man saved a 69-year-old woman through liver donation.

The clinic says they base transplant decisions on the quality and function of the organs.

Find more information about organ donation and transplantation by clicking the links below:

https://unos.org/

https://lifelineofohio.org/register-as-a-donor/

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