MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - At age 46, Dale Leighton survived a heart attack.
“I had what they call a widowmaker heart attack, where people don’t usually live,” Leighton said.
Although, the 14 years that followed, wouldn’t be easy.
In that time, Leighton had an unsuccessful heart transplant in 2017 and spent 9 years on a left ventricular assist device (LVAD).
“The experience of waiting, you have to be really patient and it’s not for the squeamish, because I’ve seen things I can’t un-see,” Leighton said.
On March 14 of this year, he learned the wait was finally over.
“A whole room of people, I had my own room, and they all packed around me and they woke me up and they go ‘Dale you’re getting a new heart’ and I’m like ‘Really?’” Leighton said.
And fortunately, this time around was different.
“I could tell the minute I woke up this time it was different. Right away,” Leighton said.
Since then, he has prioritized getting well through rehab with a big goal in mind; to attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.
He says, bikes have been a rock throughout most of his life.
“I’m just real passionate about it, it’s my God time when I’m behind the handle bars, that’s when I’m talking to God,” Leighton said.
Leighton is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, while many are still waiting.
“There are approximately 20 people who lose their life daily who are on the transplant list. In this area, in the upper–Midwest, there is about 3,400 patients who are on the organ transplant list – so what that means is you probably have friends or neighbors who are in need or organ transplantation,” vice-chair of clinical practice, hospital specialties, at Mayo Clinic Health System Dr. Brian Bartlett said.
Bartlett says the most important thing to do when deciding to be an organ donor is to have a discussion with your family.
“You’re certainly able to designate your organ donor wishes on your driver’s license and through the state – but your family needs to be aware of that, they’ll be the final decision makers,” Bartlett said.
And even Leighton is a registered donor.
“I’m a donor and I don’t know how much of me is good. But, they’ll use something – I heard the eyes are always good,” Leighton said.