25 years after heart transplant, Shelby man counts his blessings

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 September 2015 at 12:00 am

Michael Hodgins is grateful for chance to raise family

Photos by Tom Rivers – Michael Hodgins, 53, had a heart transplant when he was 28. He is pictured at the Shelby waterfalls near his home on Thursday. He is wearing the “Cardiac Rehabilitation” T-shirt from Medina Memorial Hospital, a shirt he has had for a quarter century.

SHELBY – Michael Hodgins was 28, married with three young children when he got a new heart.

The Shelby resident was waiting for a transplant for 15 months when he was rushed to Buffalo General on Sept. 13, 1990. The transplant has been a tremendous success, giving Hodgins newfound energy and a longer lease on life.

“I’m very grateful to God for bringing me through it,” Hodgins said at his home in Shelby on Thursday. “I just thank God for life and being able to see my kids grow up and spend time with my grandkids.”

Hodgins and his wife Kathy have three grown children: Alisha Duffina, 32; Greg, 31; and Ryan, 28. The three grown children all live in the Medina area and all have their own children – six grandkids in all for Michael and Kathy.

Hodgins had a failing heart at age 27. He was born a preemie, just over 2 pounds and had a a hole in his heart. He had heart surgery at age 9, and seemed to be doing OK until he was 27.

His enlarged heart struggled to pump blood. He was sluggish and short of breath.

Doctors made him a candidate for a heart transplant. Three times he hurried to the hospital for the surgery, only to have it called off, until Sept. 13, 1990.

Hodgins said he remembers feeling so much better after the surgery, with newfound energy.

“Once it was done, it was like night and day,” he said. “It was like being a new person.”

Michael and Kathy Hodgins hold a heart-shaped pillow given to them 25 years ago after Michael had a heart transplant.

Hodgins started working in bakeries when he was a teen-ager. After a brief recovery after the transplant, he felt well enough to return to work, including the physically demanding tasks of lugging heavy bags of ingredients.

Hodgins hasn’t slowed down on the job. After more than 20 years with the Jubilee in Medina, he needed to get a new job when the store closed in 2006. Hodgins joined Medina Memorial Hospital nine years ago and supervises the dietary department at the hospital.

“God’s given me the hands to work and the life to work,” he said. “So I’m going to keep working.”

He frequently takes walks, and used to play a lot of racquetball before he had a hip replaced in 2004. He also battled Non-Hodgin Lymphoma in 2007.

His wife of 33 years marvels at her husband’s strength through the physical challenges.

“Our faith has helped get us through,” said Mrs. Hodgins, who works as director of treatment services for GCASA in Albion.

Now that their children are grown, the couple has been taking more time together. They have visited Aruba and the Dominican Republic.

“We’re taking vacations and enjoying life,” Mrs. Hodgins said.

The couple attends the Oak Orchard Assembly of God at 12111 Ridge Rd., Medina. This Sunday, on the 25th anniversary of the transplant, the Hodgins family and their church will celebrate during the 10:30 a.m. service at Oak Orchard.

The Rev. Dan Thurber, the church pastor, will preach about the successful transplant. Hodgins also will sing during the service with some of his friends.

“It’s going to be a huge celebration of life,” Mrs. Hodgins said.