Transplant success story: how a heartland man got back on his feet after receiving a new heart

Raymond Davis, of Eldon, received a new heart on May 1 in Iowa City.

By the way he gets around, you can't tell that Raymond Davis is only seven weeks out of surgery.

Davis first suffered a heart attack in 1996 and has since spent a lot of time in and out of local hospitals. When his condition worsened, doctors in Des Moines looked at getting him a left ventricular assist device, or L-VAD. However, a second opinion in Iowa City determined a heart transplant was the only option.

When Davis got to Iowa City earlier this year, his heart collapsed and he was equipped with a CentriMag for six weeks, two weeks longer than he should have had it. After two months at University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, he received a heart transplant May 1. Another few weeks for recovery after the transplant made for a three-month hospital stay.

"Two months wasn't real bad, but that third month was not nice," Davis said. "I didn't like it. I was bored and just looking at the hospital roomâ?¦ I was just ready to get out of there."

The one thing that was nice about Raymond's stay in Iowa City was his doctors and nurses. He tells KTVO that they became like family and went above and beyond to make sure he was comfortable and happy, even helping him get out of his room for an hour or two to make the days go by faster. Davis' wife stayed with him in Iowa City throughout the entire process and his family helped take care of his home and garden while he was gone.

But Davis was ready to go home, so he took charge of his recovery. He willed himself to walk every day to regain his strength and hopefully speed up the recovery process.

"I woke up a day later from surgery and I got up and started walking around," he said. "Then I started walking maybe four or five times a day. I get up sometimes at two in the morning and start walking, four in the morningâ?¦ do about five trips a day."

Those trips have paid off. Raymond's doctors say he's about three weeks ahead in recovery than any other transplant patient. But he's not done yet. His physical activity still needs to be limited, but worse for Raymond, he can't get outside to do what he enjoys -- work in his garden.

"Sitting here watching everybody else do my work," Davis said when asked what the hardest part about the recovery process is. "I'm not used to that. It'd be nice just to get outside and do my stuff. I like flowers and I can't go work on them."

The recovery process should allow Davis to get back to his normal activity by next spring, but knowing him, he'll probably be a couple weeks ahead of schedule.