Albion man recovering after heart, liver transplant

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 January 2021 at 1:13 pm

Matt Grammatico had surgery last week at Cleveland Clinic

Photo courtesy of Grammatico family: Matt Grammatico gives thumbs up while he recovers after getting a heart and liver transplant on Jan. 12. Grammatico has been at the Cleveland Clinic for more than three months.

CLEVELAND – An Albion man is recovering so well after getting a heart and liver transplant last week that he has been moved out of the intensive care unit at the Cleveland Clinic – a week ahead of schedule .

Matt Grammatico, 47, has been at the hospital in Cleveland since Oct. 16. He had the transplant surgery on Jan. 12.

“I’m hopeful for the future,” Grammatico said by phone on Wednesday. “The doctors are all happy where I’m at. Honestly, they are stunned with how fast I’m coming out of it.”

Grammatico was born with a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome. He had major heart surgery as a baby followed by an open-heart reconstructive surgery when he was 11. He has needed multiple procedures and surgeries throughout the next 30-plus years of his life.

During one of the surgeries as a child, he was unknowingly given a Hepatitis C tainted blood transfusion. The virus attacked his liver, undiscovered, for more than 20 years, further complicating his health. He has endured end-stage liver disease.

Grammatico’s health deteriorated in the past year, and Cleveland Clinic kept him in good enough condition for the surgery. He was in the operating room for about 19 hours.

Normally patients are in the ICU for two weeks after the surgery. Grammatico was able to move out of ICU after one week and is now in a transplant step down unit. He said he is in a lot of pain and feels a little groggy.

But he is very thankful for the medical team, the organ donor and for a supportive community. He praises God for the surgery’s success so far.

It was almost three years ago when the Albion community put on a spaghetti dinner and basket raffle for Grammatico on Jan. 27, 2018 at the Carlton Rec Hall.

Photos by Tom Rivers: Matt Grammatico is pictured in January 2018 at his former auto repair shop, MPG Automotive in Hamlin.

Grammatico’s wife Rhonda has been in Cleveland since Oct. 16, but hasn’t been able to see her husband, face to face, due to Covid restrictions. She has been staying in a hotel room and having frequent phone and video conversations with her husband.

Grammatico said the separation from his family, including son Nate, has been very difficult. If he continues to progress, he could be released from the hospital possibly next week. Usually patients are in the transplant step down unit for a week to three weeks before being released. He then has to stay in Cleveland and check in for daily tests at the hospital for at least a month.

His wife has been providing updates on her husband’s journey at the Cleveland Clinic on Facebook through the “Feel The Love With Matt” page.

Matt Grammatico chats with friends on Jan. 27, 2018 during a fundraiser on his behalf at the Carlton Rec Hall.

Grammatico worked as a truck driver for 17 years and then owned his auto repair business in Hamlin. His father, Mike Grammatico, was a long-time music teacher at Albion.

Matt was informed there were organs for him and he was prepped for the transplant surgery on Dec. 30. But the doctors determined the liver had “declined” and it would be better to wait. Mrs. Grammatico shared that patients and their loved ones need to be prepared for “dry runs” where the surgery gets cancelled.

“We love you so much, thank you for rallying and praying and cheerleading alongside of us,” Mrs. Grammatico wrote on Facebook on Dec. 30. “We know the next call is coming in God’s good time. Praise God, Matt is in great spirits and he is in the wonderful hands of the doctors and our Lord! We will continue to be patient and wait for the next call.”

The call came in the morning on Jan. 12. Grammatico was prepared for surgery and his donor heart was in place inside his chest just after noon. The liver proved to be more time consuming. He was out of surgery at about 2:30 a.m.

“Transplant surgeries are done, Matt is doing well!” Mrs. Grammatico posted at 2:31 a.m. on Jan. 13. “He is closed and is heading down to Cardio/Vascular ICU now.

“While we are full of joy for this opportunity for a new and healthy life for Matt we are closing out tonight in a moment of silence in honor of the angel donor who saved the lives of multiple people today~ Beautiful Soul, may God bless you and keep you in perfect joy and peace with Him, all the days of eternity~”

Grammatico was able to call his wife later that day and came through with a strong voice – “I AM HERE, THANK YOU GOD, I AM HERE, PRAISE YOU LORD, I AM HERE,” he proclaimed on the call to his wife.

Mrs. Grammatico, an aide at the Ronald L. Sodoma Elementary School in Albion, said the family is very thankful to be at this stage. She said the nurses, physician assistants, doctors, surgeons and medical staff are “God-appointed miracle workers.”

“We can never say thank you enough to these absolutely outstanding folks, and we will never stop saying it – God bless you all, we are forever thankful for each one of you!” Mrs. Grammatico wrote.