February 15, 2005 at 10:34 PM CST - Updated July 1 at 9:00 PM
17 Years After A Heart Transplant By: Wendy Ray
DEXTER, MO --Organ donations give many people a second chance at life. A
heart transplant has given a Dexter man 17 years and he's still doing okay today. Ruben Adkins was 64 years old when he received his heart transplant, he's 82 now. He's not as strong as he was right after his surgery, but he's still living a happy life.
Ruben never dreamed he would be feeling this good at 82; his health was very poor 17 years ago. Ruben's heart was giving out and a heart transplant was his only chance of living. "I asked the doctor what are my chances of getting out of the operating room and he said there was a 50:50 chance," Ruben says. "I asked the doctor how long without the transplant and he said he would give me five minutes. I said I don't have much to lose."
Ruben lost nothing and gained back his life. The heart, that came from a man in Houston, was successfully transplanted in January of 1988. "The first thing I thought when I woke up is I can breathe. I couldn't breathe before. I was catching my breath all the time," he says. Ruben's lived 17 good years with his transplanted heart; his health just recently started to slip. He has skin cancer now and is living in a care center in Dexter. Through it all his second wife Mary has been by his side. Mary and Ruben were married eight years ago, a few years after Ruben's wife passed away. Ruben's new heart gave him another chance at life and love. "The years I had with him we went everywhere," Mary says. "My children would ask me 'are you going to be home' and I would say Bud and I are always going somewhere."
Ruben's not able to go all the places he used to, but he knows he's fortunate. He's lived much longer than doctors thought he would. "They say the average is seven years. I'm still going. Not strong, but I'm still going," he says.
Ruben says he's one of the oldest people living since having a heart transplant.