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Heart transplant gave man 16 years

When Jerry Hintz had his transplant in 1985, doctors didn't expect him to live more than five years. He fooled them, even surviving a heart attack along the way.

By JENNIFER FARRELL

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 13, 2001


When surgeons replaced Jerry Hintz's heart in 1985, they never expected him to see the next millennium. At the time, life expectancy after the surgery was five years at best.

But Mr. Hintz proved doctors wrong, moving to Florida nearly a decade ago and becoming one of the state's longest-surviving heart transplant recipients.

Two and a half years ago, the GlenLakes man shocked doctors again after surviving a heart attack.

But early this week, Mr. Hintz's second heart gave out, 16 years after the transplant that helped save his life. He died Monday at Shands at the University of Florida, Gainesville, after being admitted Sunday for bypass surgery to improve circulation in his legs.

Mr. Hintz, 67, was the third heart transplant recipient at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, which was among the first hospitals in the country to perform the procedure.

With advances in medicine, survival rates have increased over the years, but Hartford Hospital spokesman James Battaglio said Mr. Hintz's life span was remarkable. "That's quite a feat for this gentleman to have lived this long."

Shands spokeswoman Jennifer Porter said Mr. Hintz was one of the longest-surviving heart transplant patients in Florida.

Born in Milwaukee, Mr. Hintz was diagnosed with congenital heart failure in his mid-40s, according to his wife of 46 years, Gloria Hintz, 68. For several years, doctors treated his condition with drugs, then placed him on a list of would-be transplant recipients.

Mr. Hintz, who had moved with his family to Glastonbury, Conn., in 1974, was hospitalized in February 1985. A month later, doctors told him they had found a match.

As surprising as how quickly the heart became available was the donor's hometown, said Mrs. Hintz. The 21-year-old man who gave his heart to her husband lived in Milwaukee, she said.

On Thursday, she expressed gratitude to the young man, whose name she never knew, and encouraged others to consider becoming donors.

"It's a wonderful chance," she said. "You're helping somebody live another life."

Mr. Hintz played golf until the beginning of this year, when circulation problems kept him from walking around the course. First he cut down to nine holes, then rode in a cart, acting as a ball watcher for golfing friends who were legally blind.

"He was very remarkable," said Mrs. Hintz.

She credited her husband's success to his commitment to taking the myriad follow-up medications, numbering up to 18 pills a day. "That's why I think he made it so long," she added.

Statistics kept by the University of California, Los Angeles, showed the record as of 1998 for a transplant recipient was 23 years, 8 months, held by a 51-year-old who received a transplant in 1975 at Stanford University, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, a charitable organization that maintains the nation's organ transplant waiting list under a contract with the federal government.

Mr. Hintz, a certified public accountant, retired in 1990 from Barclays American/Business Credit. He was a member of the American Institute of CPAs, the Wisconsin Society of CPAs and the Wisconsin State board of Accountancy.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Hintz is survived by two daughters, Lynn M. Compton of Deering, N.H., and Susan L. March of Spring Hill, and two sons, David G. of Weymouth, Mass., and Paul H. of Portland, Conn.

Viewing hours will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Pinecrest Funeral Chapel, 3369 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill. A memorial Mass will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at Saint Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, 5030 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill. Donations may be sent to the American Heart Association or Saint Frances Cabrini Catholic Church.

- Staff writer Jennifer Farrell covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432.

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