DeKALB – April 17 is a special anniversary for Arthur Berry, a longtime and semi-retired resident of DeKalb for the past 40-plus years.
This year marks 11 years since he underwent transplant surgery to replace both his heart and liver before a potentially fatal genetic condition claimed his life. After all that time, Berry still maintains a three-days-a-week exercise regimen and said he hopes that can inspire people to persevere through a difficult medical situation.
“You can get through this,” Berry said.
Six months before his surgery, Berry visited a doctor after feeling increasingly weaker after exercising or walking. A number of tests followed and Berry endured a months-long process before doctors at Loyola University Medical Center could pinpoint the problem.
Berry eventually was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a condition where abnormal proteins known as amyloids build up in the heart, kidneys, liver and other organs. The disease is rare, affecting about 4,000 people a year, according to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, but it can be fatal.
In Berry’s case, it required transplant surgery for both his heart and liver. Berry’s primary care physician in DeKalb told him that he was one of the only people in the country to have a double transplant with both organs coming from the same donor.
He ended up being hospitalized for six months at Loyola.
Berry attributed his ability to get through this point of his life to his strong support system. He said there was a woman in the hospital who never had a visitor, even on Christmas, so he would try and visit with her.
“It really does help,” he said, recalling how many people came to see him. “There were times where I had visitors that had to wait outside.”
A long road of rehabilitation followed. Berry said there was a period of time where he wasn’t able to walk and was confined to a hospital bed in his living room.
But the minute he was finished with his cardiac rehab at Kishwaukee Hospital, Berry signed back up at the Kishwaukee Family YMCA, where he does a 3-mile bike ride, weight training and other workouts three days a week.
“I was told that most people that get transplants don’t do too much and that I shouldn’t be surprised to gain 50 or 60 pounds,” Berry said. “But I told them that that’s not me.”