Off Central: Phoenix firefighter grateful after lifesaving heart transplant

Jun 25, 2018, 4:34 AM | Updated: 1:36 pm

(Donor Network of Arizona)...

(Donor Network of Arizona)

(Donor Network of Arizona)

PHOENIX — Dave Wipprecht, a 41-year-old firefighter with tattoos who stands over six-feet-tall. He’s a motorcycle lover, a loving husband and is helping raise his infant grandchild.

He has also received a heart transplant.

Before June 2014, he never imagined it happening to him.

“It was an infection that went to my bloodstream and attacked my heart,” Wipprecht said.

He began having trouble breathing. Eventually, an echocardiogram revealed his heart was four times the normal size and working at 10 percent capacity.

After emergency surgery to remove blood clots in his legs, Wipprecht said he settled into a bed at the Mayo Clinic Hospital to await a new heart.

His family and faith kept him going, especially his three young sons.

“They’d run upstairs to the fourth floor,” he remembered. “We’d hang out, draw, play games together. They held it together pretty good.”

That, he said, inspired him to keep a brave face.

The brave-face mask nearly shattered in June 2015, when Wipprecht’s doctor gave him worst-case scenario news.

“Dr. Hardaway came in and said, ‘Dave, we depleted every medicine we can give you. We’re looking at about nine more days,'” Wipprecht said.

“On day eight, a heart came in.”

Nico Santos with the Donor Registry of Arizona said many potential recipients aren’t as fortunate as Wipprecht was.

“There’s more than 2,200 people just in our state alone,” he said. “Thirty-eight seconds is the average time it takes … to register as an organ, tissue and cornea donor.”

Wipprecht said he promised himself he’d never complain about being in traffic again, after watching it on the Loop 101 outside his hospital window.

“I had IVs in my neck, my legs,” he said. “The only exercise I got was walking to the hallway.”

He said he remembers smiling after waking up from the surgery to put in his new heart.

And now, three years after his transplant, the fire engineer said he’s more grateful than ever for life and a second chance to live it.

Although it’s been hard on some days, he said, he knows how fortunate he was. He also does his best not to judge others anymore – for example, looking down on others who aren’t as in good shape as he is.

“Everybody in that gym – whether they’re a bodybuilder or they’re trying to lose weight – everybody there is equal.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

How Arizona voters can cut through the political noise this election season...

Serena O'Sullivan

How Arizona voters can cut through the political noise this election season

Political noise is ramping up ahead of Arizona's presidential preference election on March 19. Here are a few ways voters can thrive in 2024.

31 minutes ago

Fugitive wanted in Georgia may be in Rocky Point, FBI says...

Serena O'Sullivan

Phoenix FBI asking for help finding fugitive wanted in Georgia

The FBI asked the public on Thursday to help find a fugitive wanted in Georgia. Officials believe he has ties to the Phoenix area.

41 minutes ago

Gen Z loves Trump Arizona political analyst says...

Serena O'Sullivan

Valley political consultant sheds light on why Gen Z loves Trump

Gen Z loves Trump, according to Stan Barnes, a former Arizona state senator who currently works as a political consultant.

50 minutes ago

The Scookie Bar, local skillet cookie company, is partners with NFL...

Serena O'Sullivan

Phoenix cookie company gets new opportunities from NFL business partnership

The Scookie Bar, a longtime food truck turned brick-and-mortar store, will expand its NFL partnership this year for the Final Four.

1 hour ago

Andrew Ormsby, 22, was arrested on Wednesday, police said. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office photo)...

Phoenix police arrest man accused of fatally shooting victim found in West Valley alley

Andrew Ormsby, 22, was arrested on Wednesday for his involvement in the shooting death of Roy Orozco, 24, Phoenix police said.

8 hours ago

Guests mill about at a previous Guild Indian Fair & Market on the grounds of the Heard Museum in Ph...

Heard Museum in Phoenix holding 66th annual Guild Indian Fair & Market this weekend

The Heard Museum in Phoenix is holding its signature event this weekend, the 66th annual Guild Indian Fair & Market.

9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.


Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Off Central: Phoenix firefighter grateful after lifesaving heart transplant