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July 14, 1995 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-07-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



After a heart transplant, 25-year-old
Erik Morganroth continues to make progress.

Erik Morganroth:
Grateful and








oday, Erik Morganroth is still the
same person he used to be. He con-
tinues to collect wine and antiques.
He still wants to go to medical
school. And he maintains his
sharp sense of humor.
However, since undergoing a
heart transplant in January, this
University of Michigan pre-med-
icine graduate is forced to live his
life in a way he never could have
He takes large doses of med-
ication, faces the risk of infection
and continues to be recognized be-
cause of the publicity his trans-
plant generated.
Happy to be alive and so far suc-
cessful in his attempts to return
to normalcy, Mr. Morganroth, of
Troy, now takes about 30 pills dai-
ly — he will be dependent on med-
ication for the rest of his life — and
he is highly susceptible to bacte-
ria. A simple cold gives him cause
for concern.
Mr. Morganroth's epic began

when he was hospitalized in
December after feeling tired
and short of breath. Doctors
discovered a virus had at-
tacked this otherwise healthy
man's heart, making a trans-
plant his only hope for survival.
He was placed on a heart
pump to circulate his blood
while his family and doctors
waited for a matching donor.
While two dozen machines
worked to keep him alive, his
family decided to make a pub-
lic plea for organ donation.
They hoped that by increasing
awareness their situation
would benefit other patients
awaiting an organ. The fami-
ly also was hopeful a match
would be found for their son.
As Mr. Morganroth fought
for his life in a U-M hospital
bed, people he never met be-
fore were following his condi-
tion through newspaper and
television reports. He received
over 2,000 cards from well-
wishers, mostly signed with
unfamiliar names. Many con-
tained more than one signa-
`Two thousand people went
through the trouble of spend-
ing money on a card, looked up
the address of the hospital,
paid for a stamp and mailed
me a card," Mr. Morganroth said.
"It makes you think others aren't
just strangers leading their own
life. We're all affected by each oth-
er. If someone cuts you off on the
highway or you let the person with
only a few groceries get in line in
front of you, it makes an impact."
Mr. Morganroth has a hard
time remembering most of what
happened over the three months
he spent in the hospital.
"I can be reminded of what hap-
pened, but I have no chronology of
events," said Mr. Morganroth.
Although he doesn't remember
being scared, he wondered why so
many people fought so hard to
keep him alive. "Sometimes, I just
wanted them to let me rest."
He recalls overhearing conver-
sations where a doctor or nurse
would tell a family member, "He
cannot hear us." However, he re-
members hearing them, even if he
doesn't recall exactly what was

At times, Mr. Morganroth had
what doctors considered too many
strikes against him.
There were times the Morgan-
roths were told to call their fami-
ly into town because their son
would not make it through the
What amazed the medical com-
munity was that the machine that
pumped his blood worked for 34
days. The longest anyone had lived
on the device was 14 days.

"How can you be a
celebrity for almost

— Erik Morganroth

"Thirty-four days is the least of
the miracles in my mind," said Mr.
Morganroth, who is amazed by all
the odds he overcame. "It's amaz-
ing that all the things that had to
come together did. They were able
to find a matching heart and get
it to Ann Arbor within the window
of time. There were so many
things that needed to happen and
His body temperature often was
between 106 and 107 degrees, his
platelets dropped below 4,000 (nor-
mal range is between 200,000 and
300,000) and he experienced kid-
ney failure. At one time, doctors
wanted to remove his lung because
he had pneumonia. His family said
no and the next day, the pneumo-
nia was gone.
When the heart became avail-
able, his temperature dropped and
he was strong enough to undergo
the surgery; he has photographs
of it.
"Some people say I survived be-
cause of my will to live and the
support I received from my fami-
ly, doctors and the community," he
Since his release, Mr. Morgan-
roth has granted a handful of me-
dia interviews and, occasionally,
strangers will ask, "Are you Erik
Then, there are three com-
ments people usually make to
him. "I prayed for you," "I cried for
you," or "You have an amazing

He has mixed feelings about all
the publicity. While he and his
family are extremely grateful to
the community for its support, and
while he enjoys the attention, he
doesn't feel he deserves it. "How
can you be a celebrity for almost
dying?" he asked.
Now that he is strong enough
to get around, Mr. Morganroth oc-
casionally talks with patients who
are reluctant to undergo a trans-
plant. He tries to inform people
about becoming organ donors and
thank those who offered their sup-
port, including the Jewish Com-
munity Center, which held a blood
In spite of what's transpired
over the last seven months, Mr.
Morganroth said he is still the
same person.
"I like to think I was sick and
got better. There are times I have
to remind people, including my-
self, I had a heart transplant," he
said. He has some fears about how
people see him. "I wonder, are they
weirded out by me? I'd like to be
looked at like this never happened.
I don't want to be pampered.
"Before, I had that typical im-
mortality view of a 25-year-old. My
attitude was always, 'Nothing is
going to happen to me.' Transplant
was never even part of my vocab-
ulary. I realize now we don't have
a lot of control over what can hap-
pen to us."
Mr. Morganroth feels 10 times
better than he did two months ago
and at 50-60 percent of how he
used to feel before getting sick. He
doesn't know when he will go to
medical school. Right now he's con-
tinuing with his recovery.
In addition to his medication,
Mr. Morganroth is in physical
therapy three times a week and
he goes to Ann Arbor once a month
so doctors can biopsy his heart to
test for rejection.
"It's funny, they give you a heart
and then they take parts of it
away," he joked.
Mr. Morganroth keeps an up-
beat attitude about all that's hap-
pened to him. One day, he'd like
to write a book about his experi-
"I would like to be the guy with
the transplant in the Olympics,
not the guy in the Olympics for
transplants," he said. (11


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