Wilmington man received a call that could save his life

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - One Wilmington man received a phone call Wednesday morning that could save his life.

Bobby Gene Smith learned doctors in Chapel Hill had a heart waiting for him.  He is one of nearly 3,000 people in North Carolina who are waiting for a transplant.

Bobby's problems began 25 years ago when his heart started to fail.

"I used medication for about 10 years, and then the doctor said it was time for me to try something else," said Bobby.

He tried a defibrillator, but that didn't last.  Bobby's wife, Marion, said one day her husband just collapsed.

"It scared me and my son and my daughter and daughter-in-law and Grand baby, we jumped up - we didn't know what to do," said Marion.

That's when doctors told Bobby he needed a heart.

Dr. Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the first permanent artificial heart, came to Chapel Hill to operate on Bobby.  Just hours after the surgery, Bobby was back.

"I whispered in his ear, I said, 'Honey, I love you,' and he just jumped!" said Marion.

Now, the prognosis is even better - a heart is waiting for Bobby.

"I feel better, I don't have shortness of breath, or pain," said Bobby.

As the couple enters the next chapter of their lives, Bobby and Marion know even if you have a broken heart, you can still share a lifetime of love.

Doctors say Bobby's operation was a success and that everything looks good so far.  He will remain in the hospital until doctors are confident all of his organs adapt to the new heart.

Transplants have a very high success rate.  It is estimated that nearly 90 percent of people who receive them survive.

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