Indiana high school football coach giving thanks after receiving new heart

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (November 25, 2015) - A high school football coach is giving thanks for his life and the life of someone else after receiving a heart transplant last week. David Preistley is a freshman football coach for Lakeland High School in LaGrange. He said last year he went to the doctor after feeling symptoms of heart problems.

"His heart had deteriorated so quickly and the function had deteriorated so poorly," said Preistley's IU Health cardiothoracic surgeon , I-wen Wang, M.D.

Preistley spent last thanksgiving at IU Health. He had emergency surgery to implant a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD. The device is designed to help pump oxygen to Priestly's body. The LVAD isn't a permanent solution and Preistley was placed on the heart transplant list.

“You get used to sitting around waiting. They told me it could be a longer wait because of my blood type. We were prepared to wait up to two  years," Preistley said.

He got the call much sooner. Last week he and his family drove from LaGrange to Indianapolis to get his new heart.

“Clearly, my new tradition is spending Thanksgiving here at IU Hospital, but maybe next year I’ll get to go home," Preistley joked.

Preistley's wife, Stacey has been at his side since the news of his deadly disease.

"The last couple years have been a big whirlwind, being told that your husband has congestive heart failure," Stacey said.

IU Health doctors performed the extensive and lengthy surgery flawlessly.

“We’re one of three heart transplant programs in the state of Indiana. We’re also one of the busiest LVAD programs in the state as well," explained Dr. Wang. "We have an extensive team of heart failure cardiologists," he added.

Preistley said he knows his gift of life is coming at the expense of another. “This family will not be spending thanksgiving with this person. It’s just trying to find that balance. Somebody had to pass away for me to live," he said.

But this ultimate gift of life is bringing a whole new meaning to the holiday for both Preistley and his family. His message to others this Thanksgiving is the importance of being an organ donor.

“Life is about serving others and that’s kind of the situation that I’m in now. I will always owe somebody for this," he said.

Right now, in the state of Indiana, there are 48 people on the heart transplant list. For more on IU Health's organ transplant facility, click here.

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