There is only one word to describe how Bart Young is feeling these days. That word is grateful.

Jackie Martin, RN and cardiac rehab nurse, and Bart Young are all smiles after Young’s recovery from a heart transplant.

Young has had his fair share of difficulties. It started back in 2009 with his first heart surgery, a bypass. Procedures followed in 2014 for an implanted heart defibrillator. And again in 2015 when he had an LVAD, a left ventricular assist device, placed and then replaced when it failed. By 2016, his heart failure had progressed to the point that he could not step up onto a curb without assistance. In fact, on his final trip to the Community Hospital-Fairfax (CH-F) emergency room in 2016, he could not walk to the doors of the emergency room from his car.

This 57-year-old hunter and outdoorsman describes the last few years as “just awful” and relates he was told twice in one year to get his affairs in order. It was during this time that his name was placed on the donor list for a new heart.

On July 19, 2016, he got the call that a heart was available. He was admitted to Nebraska Medicine for a heart transplant.

Weeks after returning home with a new heart, Young began to attend the CH-F cardiac rehab program. For six months, he attended classes with Jackie Martin, RN, learning how to eat healthy, reduce stress and manage his medications. He also rebuilt his strength through exercise.

“When I first started cardiac rehab, I could only do about 10 minutes on the NuStep bike. Now I can do 30 with increased resistance,” Young said on his cardiac rehab graduation day.

“I ask each of my cardiac rehab patients to set a goal on their first day of class. Bart’s goal was to get back to hunting and fishing. He was back hunting on November 21, 2016, just months after a heart transplant. It was really exciting to get to celebrate this goal with him,” Martin said.

Young credits his successful recovery to the support of his daughter and son-in-law.

“They have done so much. They have made this possible,” Young said.

When he was asked what piece of advice he would give to others, he did not hesitate to say, “Get regular checkups and don’t wait like I did. And, don’t do it alone. Go to cardiac rehab.”

He and Martin laugh when he describes her role in helping him to gain strength. “She’ll push you,” Young said.

Young is the first heart transplant graduate of CH-F’s cardiac rehab program. He plans to return to the hospital’s wellness program to continue his recovery.