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Frank Hewitt's story: Up in the air just months after heart transplant

08/23/2017

Frank Hewitt’s happy place is at 12,500 feet, the earth below becoming more defined as he free-falls towards it at 160 miles per hour.

“I’ve had 5,000 jumps since 1969,” said Hewitt. “It’s nice to be back in action.”
It was just five months before that Frank was on death’s door. A bout with the flu led to an infection that weakened his heart. Doctors told him he would need a transplant– and with a rare blood type it was uncertain he would ever get a new heart. 

“I waited a year and a half. My organs had shut down,” he noted. Then he got the call from Tufts Medical Center. “On my way into the operating room I remember telling Dr. Couper, my surgeon, that I walked into the hospital, I would like to walk out. He agreed….I knew I was in great hands.”
So great, in fact, that Frank left the hospital just two weeks after major transplant surgery… and went back to his contractor business in Vermont. 

“My medical team wanted me to convalesce for a year. But I didn’t want to lose another year of my life,” he recalled.  “I have a certain mindset. I wanted to get back to work. I didn’t want to miss a beat.” 
Frank credits his survival to the close attention he received at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center while waiting for his new heart and to his care at Tufts MC, which he says was “fantastic,” adding that many staff members have become lifelong friends. He’s thrilled now to be back to doing the things he loves. 

“I asked Dr. DeNofrio (Director of the Heart Failure Program at Tufts Medical Center in Boston) if there were any restrictions and he told me that with the new heart, I could resume life as normal,” Frank said, then laughed. “I’m not sure he meant so soon.”

He may not have meant jumping out of planes, either. But Frank won’t be deterred from flying high and spreading his wings.

“It keeps me young and quick,” he said.