Published on June 14, 2022

‘Heart-in-a-box’ transplant survivor gives back through Ridgeview Cardiac Rehab

Kevin Manion Heart-in-a-box transplant recipient

Kevin Manion, Chanhassen, suffered his first heart attack at just 42 years of age—faulting a stressful career and a strong family history. Both of his parents had suffered heart attacks and he lost his brother, Mike, to a “heart-related event” in 1997. Kevin had three more heart attacks over the next 12 years, landing him in the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at Ridgeview more than once.

Cardiac Rehab includes exercise and education.

Guided by Ridgeview’s Cardiac Rehab team, patients participate in educational sessions and monitored exercises to heal, gain strength and learn about heart health. In the process, patients often become a source of support for one another, and many develop lasting relationships and connections that continue long after patients graduate from the program.

Kevin values the mentorship he received through the Cardiac Rehab program, to which he credits the staff, volunteers and fellow patients. “Because of them, I looked forward to coming back each week—cardiac rehab felt like conversation with friends versus an appointment.”

Kevin was in need of a heart transplant.

The damage caused by Kevin’s fourth heart attack required that a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) be implanted as a bridge to a heart transplant. It worked well for a year before becoming infected, leaving a heart transplant as the only option.

A research coordinator at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (MHIF) contacted Kevin about a research trial, utilizing ‘Heart-in-a-box’ technology. Kevin wholeheartedly agreed, he was willing to contribute to heart research in any way he could.

“Let’s go!” Kevin told the MHIF team when he received the call that a donor heart was available, less than one week after learning about the trial. Kevin credits his willingness to take everything head-on to his dad, who never allowed his own health issues to hold him back.

‘Heart-in-a-box’ technology makes more hearts viable for transplant.

According to MHIF, ‘Heart-in-a-box’ technology allows the heart to reanimate, recover, and continually beat in a self-contained module while waiting to be transplanted. This technology allows for donations from patients whose hearts have stopped beating, whereas traditionally hearts could only be transplanted from donors who are brain-dead but still on life support.

Kevin’s ‘Heart-in-a-box’ transplant took place on Jan. 30, 2021. It was only the second of three heart transplants for this research trial in Minnesota. The transplant was a success, and more than 16 months later, Kevin continues to thrive. He was elated when he learned that ‘Heart-in-a-box’ recently gained FDA approval in May 2022. MHIF estimates this technology will increase the available donor hearts by about 20 percent.

Kevin gives back to Ridgeview by volunteering.

Kevin developed what he calls ‘a strong loyalty’ toward Ridgeview’s Cardiac Rehab program. Just a few months after his heart transplant, Kevin was back at Cardiac Rehab—this time as a volunteer. "Kevin brings energy to our program and is willing to help us in any way. We are happy to have him as part of our Cardiac Rehab team," shared Pam Schmitt, RN, Cardiac Rehab.

As a trained volunteer, Kevin helps wipe down the equipment, but more important, offers a listening ear and that same mentorship he experienced when he needed it. “Patients like to talk about their situation while they are here. Often, they find it difficult to open up to their family or friends about what they are going through. At Cardiac Rehab we can all relate. It makes it easy to connect with one another,” Kevin explains.

Kevin Manion with the Cardiac Rehab team

Kevin Manion with the Cardiac Rehab team— Monica Kooiman, RN, Pam Schmitt, RN and Sarah Snetting, RN.

Learn more about Ridgeview’s Cardiac Rehab program.