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Spectrum Hospital completes first heart transplant in west Michigan

Doctors are celebrating the first successful heart transplant done in west Michigan. In February Spectrum Health was approved to perform heart transplants. Three other hospitals in Michigan are allowed to do the complicated procedure, but they’re all located in southeast Michigan.

50-year old Rahn Bentley walked out of a Grand Rapids hospital Tuesday; two weeks after his surgery. Bentley was born with a heart defect. He’s had numerous heart surgeries. Last year doctors installed a device called an LVAD to keep his heart operational.

“I feel fantastic. I could tell immediately when I woke up that something was different – more energetic and more…just an all over good feeling. I could feel the heart beat in my chest which with the LVAD I had you couldn’t really do that for the last year and a half. And it just felt strong.”

Two days after Thanksgiving he got a new heart. It came from 44-year old Tim Korzen, who died suddenly the day before.  Bentley announced he’ll create a foundation to help the loved ones that organ donors leave behind. “I know he left behind two young boys that he obviously loved dearly,” Bentley said, “My foundation’s first financial gift is going to be creating a college fund for Adam and Jason.” He also hopes to double the number of registered organ donors in Michigan. He’s writing a book about his experience.

Spectrum’s new heart transplant program is expected to lose millions in its first year. Most health insurers and government programs will not cover the surgery until the hospital has some track record of success. 

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.