Green Bay man is nation’s longest-living heart transplant recipient

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 3:27 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - When a Green Bay man celebrated his 77th birthday this past Sunday, it continued an amazing distinction.

Larry Pleau is the longest-living heart transplant recipient in the country, and is still going strong.

On November 10, 1985, Pleau suffered a massive heart attack at the age of 41.

He survived the ordeal, but within months doctors delivered some bad news.

“They said my heart was damaged beyond repair, so they told me to go over to Minneapolis, Fairview University Hospital in Minneapolis, and I waited four weeks for a heart. If I wouldn’t have got a heart, I would’ve had one more week to live,” recalls Pleau.

On his 42nd birthday, Pleau underwent heart transplant surgery.

Within two months, he was was back home and his wife began adding some friends in the back yard.

“We call it the Angel Garden because she collected angels through the years,” says Pleau.

Feeling good again, Pleau was ready to get back to work, but he was forced to go on disability because he couldn’t land a job.

“Nobody wanted me for work after that because they thought I was just going to die on them,” says Pleau.

With time on his hands, he felt a calling.

“I figured if I don’t know who my donor is at least I can try to give back something, you know?” says Pleau.

So he became an advocate for organ donation, even creating a flyer he calls “Sincere Heart.”

“If a patient or a family is having a hard time, whatever the medical problem might be, if I tell them my story, gives them a little encouragement and support for themselves knowing they aren’t the only one out there going through something,” explains Pleau.

Thirty-five years after his heart transplant, Pleau still takes 25 anti-rejection pills daily.

“But it works for me. I take so much in the morning, some in the evening, and some at bedtime,” says Pleau.

Every two years, Pleau sees his doctor for a heart checkup.

During his last visit this past winter, some unexpected news.

“Doctor came in the room and he says, ‘Larry, I’ve been checking your history on you,’ he says. I say, ‘Oh.’ He says, ‘You’re the oldest human heart transplant in the United States,’” recalls Pleau.

Pleau is certainly proud but not necessarily surprised by his longevity.

His key to living is to be moving, and he’s always on the go.

“You gotta move those legs all the time, see. If you want to sit, that’s where you’re going to end up,” says Pleau with a smile.

Due to the toll the heart medication took on his kidneys, Pleau needed a kidney transplant 18 years ago.

His daughter was the donor for that surgery.

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