Pittsboro woman, 72, gets new heart

Rhonda Rund with husband Roger
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At an age when too many senior citizens are giving up, a Pittsboro woman is getting a second chance with a new heart.

After hugging his patient, IU Health transplant surgeon Dr. I-wen Wang pointed to her special bright red T shirt that said, "Oldest heart transplant patient at Methodist Hospital."

"I got a heart transplant, this is all I got in return? It's a good T-shirt," he joked.

Its smiling owner, Rhonda Rund, is 72 years old.

Eleven days ago she walked into an operating room to be come Methodist Hospital's oldest heart transplant recipient. But you wouldn't know it by the way she's walking and talking now.

"I feel great," she announced. "I can't believe how good I feel. I have energy."

Rhonda lost two siblings to heart disease. She was diagnosed at 41. Although her heart was giving out for 31 years, Rhonda didn't give up.

"I didn't go to a gym and exercise. I couldn't. I didn't run races. I didn't do hard walks," she said. "I did life" with her family and husband.

Her husband Roger, however, admits Rhonda didn't always know how sick she was.

"She has gotten pretty weak at times. There was a time when she couldn't carry a basket of clothes," he said quietly.

The low point in their lives came eight months ago. Dr. Wang explained, "We were very concerned. She was very close to dying."

She was so close to death that surgeons implanted artificial heart pump into her chest. It was connected to batteries and a control module weighting 22 pounds and worn around her waist. The machine saved Rhonda's life and allowed to become healthy enough for a transplant.

Doctors say it's a rare procedure for someone her age, made possible only because Rhonda persevered. Despite a dying heart, she lived a healthy life.

"Exercising, being active, good diet, good medication," said cardiologist Dr. Irmina Gradus-Pizlo. And the lesson here is? "Stay active. Stay positive." she answered.

"If you have the will to live, it's not difficult," insisted Rhonda.

Roger looked at his now healthy wife and smiled.

"Life is good. I feel very fortunate," he said. "I feel like she's going to get another 20, 30 years out of life. What more could you want? I don't know."

Roger says the heart transplant is like celebrating Christmas and winning the lottery at the same time. Rhonda credits her family and faith for her success.

They are already planning a motor home road trip to Arizona. Roger says he does the driving but always follows Rhonda's directions. Smart man.