Heart transplant recipient gets ready to run on Thanksgiving

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CLEVELAND - For most of his life Gene Shimandle has taught CPR.

In fact he's taught more than 65-thousand people around the nation how to resuscitate a heart and to watch for the signs of heart trouble.

So what did he do when he had trouble breathing one day?

“It never dawned on me that it was heart related. Just had a three-hour workout, four-hour work out and my heart was moving really well against a 17-year-old boy playing racquetball," Gene said.

And that was the beginning of life with a failing heart.

Gene had cardiomyopathy  - that's when the muscles of the heart become enlarged, thick and weakened.

In Gene's case, his heart was only pumping at 20 percent capacity.

And over the next 12 years, Gene when through a series of options: medications, a pacemaker and finally a series of heart pumps.

Which allowed him to function but with a catch.

“I was feeling great riding my bicycle and walking and doing the chores like I needed to do but I was connected to a battery 24 hours a day. And if the power goes out in the middle of the night, it's a frightening thing ," Gene said.

Although Gene's heart pump worked, there were complications and a heart transplant would be the only thing that would allow him to return to a normal life.

On May 8th, 2017, a heart became available. Gene's surgery went well and six months later his doctors say he's on the right track.

“A heart transplant can completely rehabilitate a patient. Credit goes to Gene. He's working. That is very hard and he's physically very active gong to cardiac rehab," Cleveland Clinic Doctor Randall Starling told Fox 8 news. Dr. Starling has been treating Gene’s illness since the beginning. “He's seen many of the dark sides of heart failure. He's had his share of near-death experiences, so I would imagine he cherishes every day like none of us would ever imagine."

On Thanksgiving Day gene is taking a big step he's going to run in a turkey trot in his hometown of Aurora.

It's not just a celebration of his new life, but a thank you to the family who donated their son's heart so that he could live and see his children and grandchildren.

“His heart beats in my chest and I would love for his family to listen to their son's. I’m here because he's in here," Gene said.

Gene said he will be surrounded by several of his cardiac nurses and tons of friends and family.

If you would like to learn more about the organ donation you can click here.