When Randy Marlow checked into Mayo Clinic Hospital's Saint Marys Campus, he knew his hospital stay would be lengthy. He just wasn’t expecting it to last one year, seven months and 21 days.
As someone who needed dual heart and liver transplants, Randy knew the probability of two suitable donor organs becoming available at the same time was small. Moreover, his rare blood type, coupled with a buildup of antibodies from multiple blood transfusions related to prior heart surgeries, meant he would be incompatible with all but 10 to 20 percent of organ donors, according to his physicians.
So Randy, an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed snowmobiling back home in the Colorado Rockies, riding his ATV, and camping, shifted his perspective from action to endurance.
Patience became the operative word. "You have to take it day by day and wait for that right day, for the miracle," Randy says.
During his stay, Randy's days began to take on the surreal quality of the 1993 movie "Groundhog Day."
Every day he awoke in his hospital bed on the organ transplant floor at Saint Marys. He saw the same nurses. Spoke with the same doctors. He received IV fluids and medication. He ate the hospital’s food. He exercised. He fell asleep. And in the morning, he’d wake and do it all over again.
But unlike the title character of the movie, Randy's fate wasn’t neatly tied up in a funny Hollywood script. His destiny was linked to circumstances completely beyond his control.
The 47-year-old had been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect as a young man, and through the years, he underwent four open-heart surgeries to correct the atrial septal defect. By his early 40s, however, the disease had progressed to heart failure. High amounts of fluid buildup exacerbated his condition by causing liver failure.
While Mayo has performed 29 of the 166 heart-liver transplants performed in the United States, according to data from the United Network of Organ Sharing, the procedure is quite complicated. Each minute counts and every step must be carefully coordinated, says transplant surgeon Richard Daly, M.D. "We have to manage that particular situation very, very carefully in terms of the choreography of the surgery," he says.
During his time waiting for that transplant, Randy's care team went out of their way to make the days interesting. "The staff -- they were awesome. They just made it, made my days, go easier," Randy says. "I spent a year and eight months with these people. They became my second family."
And when Randy’s was finally matched with a donor, it was his care team that were the his most strident supporters. "It's a miracle. I would not be here if it wasn't for Mayo and the nurses," he says. "It's good to be alive and feeling good."
Watch Randy and his team tell his story in the Mayo Clinic News Network video below.