On June 27 Wadena native Chris Thorstenson celebrated the birth of his second son, Carson, and nearly 18 months of continuous heart beats after Chris's January 2005 heart transplant.
Chris's parents, Les and Sarah Thorstenson, are eager to share the good news of his recovery and the importance of organ donation with his community.
"It was a modern-day miracle," Les said about his son's rapid recovery and second child. "Chris is living a good life and has a new son to prove it. Carson is a perfect baby."
Chris's health problems began four years ago when a virus enlarged his heart, endangering his life. Doctors installed a heart pump to keep Chris alive while he waited on the transplant list.
"Chris lived on electricity and batteries," Les said. "That's what kept him alive for a year."
He said Thorstenson wore a fanny pack loaded with batteries, and had to recharge them every six hours and plug into the electricity at night.
His doctors also prescribed an experimental drug in hopes of shrinking his heart and avoiding a transplant. Sarah said the drug failed, but Chris was glad he at least had the opportunity to take the drug. She said Chris's heart pump began to fail as well after a year and he was moved to a higher priority on the heart waiting list.
Les said he received the news about Chris's new heart with the message, "Wish me luck, I'm on my way to the U" on his cell phone voice mail.
"It was just such a wonderful day," Sarah said. "We had waited so long. I just had a feeling that everything was going to be OK."
She said the heart Chris received was an almost perfect match and he has not undergone any additional hospital stays since his surgery nor experienced any side effects from his anti-rejection medication.
Thorstenson said he got back to his job laying carpet only a month after the transplant.
"I'm doing as good as before I had the heart problems," he said from his home in Sartell, Minn. "Like a million bucks."
Sarah and Les said Chris's heart problems changed his perspective on life and he spends more time with his wife, Megan, his son, Scout, 3, and newborn, Carson.
Sarah said one of the best things about Chris's recovery is seeing him swim in Marion Lake where the Thorstensons have a cabin. He couldn't go in the water with his battery-powered heart pump.
"It's so nice to see him live a normal life," she said about the activities Chris can now enjoy.
Chris said even though he is not a big swimmer, he missed joining his son when Scout first got to go swimming in Marion Lake.
He said he loves to come up to the Wadena area and he is grateful for the support he received from friends and family.
"I believe all the prayers I got from everybody was a big factor in my recovery," Chris said.
Les and Sarah are also thankful for the fund raisers held in Chris's honor.
The Thorstensons said they would like the Wadena community to know the most important thing they can do to support people suffering from organ failure is to promote organ donation.
"People need to talk to their next of kin and their close relatives about donating [their organs]," Les said.
For more information about becoming an organ donor, visit www.organdonor.gov.