Memorial Day was particularly memorable for one Baldwin man.
Gary Craig, 19, received a heart transplant Monday at St. Louis University Hospital, where he underwent open heart surgery only 17 days earlier.
His father, Allen Craig, said doctors woke his son about 12:45 a.m. Monday to announce they'd found a heart. While a doctor and nurse were jetted to retrieve the heart, doctors at St. Louis University Hospital started Gary Craig on intravenous anti-rejection medication and prepared him for surgery. He was anesthetized at 5:30 a.m. and the transplant got under way at 7:45 a.m. Doctors announced at 11 a.m. that the operation was successful, and Craig was admitted to the intensive care unit around 1 p.m., his father said.
"He's doing excellent," Craig said. "They released him from the ICU yesterday afternoon at 4."
Doctors likely will release his son as an outpatient in about two weeks, he said. Gary Craig will remain in St. Louis for about another month after his release from the hospital so doctors can perform weekly biopsies to ensure his body won't reject the heart. He also will visit a physical therapist three times a week. His first biopsy will be Tuesday. After returning home, he will undergo two more months of physical therapy and biopsies at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.
While the operation went smoothly, his son still must clear some hurdles, said Craig.
"He's scared. He's worried about rejection," he said. "I've got a guy in Kansas City that's a heart recipient and he's going to call him up and talk to him about it."
He said he didn't know where his son's new heart came from -- his only concern was that it was strong and healthy.
Gary Craig started suffering heart problems in October and was treated at St. Luke's until doctors there exhausted their resources. He received his Baldwin High School diploma in a special commencement ceremony May 10 at the hospital, and was taken by Life Flight helicopter to St. Louis the next day. He suffered a heart attack May 14 and underwent open heart surgery, receiving two mechanical heart pumps to help pump blood through his heart.
He was put on the waiting list for a new heart April 8 and temporarily taken off the list following his surgery. Doctors reactivated his status May 25, and he waited only six more days to get a new heart.