After undergoing a heart and liver transplant at the Cleveland Clinic last month, former Batavia resident Matt Grammatico was finally discharged Monday, into his wife Rhonda’s waiting arms.
It was the first time the couple had seen each other since Matt was admitted there on Oct. 16.
He hasn’t been able to have visitors since entering the hospital. Rhonda would sit in the waiting room for hours, just to be near him, until the time came that she wasn’t allowed to enter the hospital at all.
What a long journey is has been, one that actually started when Matt was an infant.
He's the firstborn son of Mike and Mary Jane Grammatico, of Batavia, and his father said they knew at 5 weeks of age something was wrong.
“We thought he had a cold, but our doctor told us we needed to take him to a pediatric cardiologist,” Mike said.
It was determined at Strong Memorial Hospital Matt had been born with a three-chambered heart with no right ventricle. He underwent surgery a week later and doctors told his parents they didn’t know if Matt would make it.
At the age of 11, matt underwent open heart surgery to make his heart more like a normal one, and until now, he’s made it work, Mike said. The real problem stemmed from a blood transfusion contaminated with hepatitis C that he received unknowingly, which was not detected for more than 20 years.
Mike said it was their faith in the Good Lord which has kept Matt going.
The native of Albion met and married Rhonda in 1997 and they lived in Albion. They moved to Batavia a year and a half ago, then decided to return to live in Albion after Mike was hospitalized.
In a phone call from the Cleveland Clinic two weeks ago, Mike explained his heart defect means he wears out quickly, putting pressure on the liver.
In spite of this, Matt has been able to work at his auto repair shop and support his family, which includes his 19-year-old son Nate. He said he able to lead a fairly normal life until four years ago, when he learned he would need both a heart and a liver transplant.
Matt’s dad praises his doctor in Middleport and his cardiologist at Strong, Dr. Michael Joynt, a Medina native and son of former Oak Orchard School Principal Cathy Joynt, for the care they gave him, which kept him functioning until donors could be found.
Dr. Joynt finally told Matt he needed to get to the Cleveland Clinic.
His dad said Matt has always been a trooper, and Rhonda is a trooper, too.
Rhonda has been staying in a nearby hotel since Matt entered Cleveland Clinic, where he has been bedridden while waiting for his transplants.
Originally, a donor was found in December and Matt was scheduled for surgery on Dec. 30, but at the last minute, doctors determined the liver was not as good as they first thought and the procedure was canceled.
The family’s prayers were answered however, when another donor was found and Matt went into surgery late in the morning on Jan. 12. The surgery would take 19 hours, ending in the early hours of Jan. 13.
The normal time for a patient to be on a respirator after a procedure like this is a week, but doctors were able to take Matt off in four hours.
“I’ve cut all their normal times in half,” Matt said.
Mike said the Cleveland Clinic has done two previous transplants with Matt’s pre-existing conditions, and that they have been studying Matt for the last three years.
In spite of all he’s been through, Matt said God has been good.
Rhonda said Matt has been a fighter his whole life, but he was beginning to lose the battle.
“These last three years, we watched Matt’s slow and heartbreaking decline,” she said. “But he gave his best effort. And his amazing doctors, all of us, we were all standing by Matt’s side, giving all we could to help him fight. We knew the statistics. We knew the outcome we wanted was not a guarantee.
"There were many dark days, but we made a resolution to trust God’s plan, because we know God is good and He does love and He knows best. We put Matt in God’s hands and we watched and waited. And now, here we are in the middle of an absolutely glorious story.”
For the time being, Matt will have to stay at the hotel in Cleveland with Rhonda so he can report every day to the Cleveland Clinic.
His most immediate wish was to see his wife and focus on getting his strength back.
He said he is looking forward to not being in pain, returning home and getting back to a normal life.
Photos courtesy of Rhonda Grammatico.
Top photo: Matt and Rhonda Grammatico are all smiles after he was discharged from the Cleveland Clinic on Monday. It was the first time the couple had seen each other since October.
Below: Matt Grammatico gives a thumbs up in the ICU at the Cleveland Clinic, where he was recuperating from a heart and liver transplant Jan. 12 and 13.
Below: Rhonda Grammatico stands outside the Cleveland Clinic as she waits for her husband Matt to be discharged.
Below: Matt Grammatico is wide-eyed as he sees his wife Rhonda for the first time since Oct. 16.
Below: Matt and Rhonda Grammatico are happy to be together again.