CLEVELAND – In 1985, Rick Rideout, just in his twenties, was putting in 50-60 hour work weeks as a bakery products truck driver, and playing competitive softball on the weekends.
One day, after working two shifts and playing several games at a softball tournament, he ate dinner and suddenly found it difficult to breathe.
After visiting his doctor, Rideout found himself in a week-long stay in the hospital followed by a heart catherization procedure at Cleveland Clinic. It was then he learned he had idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy – a condition where the heart has difficulty pumping blood because the left ventricle is damaged or weak.
“They told me you’re going to need a heart transplant,” said Rideout. “Could be five years; could be 10. It turned out to be a few months.”
A few months later, he again began experiencing severe shortness of breath, and learned his heart had doubled in size. Doctors told Rideout he would need a heart transplant as soon as possible.
Within a few weeks, a suitable heart was found and a successful transplant was performed. That was 33 years ago.
Now 60, Rideout is the second longest-living heart transplant survivor from Cleveland Clinic.
“I got an absolutely perfect match for my heart,” said Rideout. “I’ve been lucky to have been able to live a normal life. When I had my transplant in 1986, they gave me a 60 percent chance of living five years. I was 26 at the time, and I decided I’m going to enjoy myself.”
“We really don’t know why some transplanted hearts last a lot longer than others,” said Cleveland Clinic’s Jerry Estep, M.D., “There is some data that links long-term survivors with being younger and leaner at the time of transplant. It’s also likely that Rick got a heart that was a near-perfect match, immunologically. He also did everything you’re supposed to do to take care of his heart. And his personal attitude is also a huge part of his success.”
Rideout’s life hasn’t been without other heart-related challenges. He’s had a few serious health scares, including skin cancer and kidney failure, brought on by side effects from his longtime use of anti-rejection medications to maintain the health of his transplanted heart.
In 2016, he received a kidney transplant, from his wife, Mary Ann.
Today, Rideout is retired from his longtime position as meat department manager at a grocery store.
Throughout his medical journey, he has maintained a positive attitude, and advises other heart transplant patients, or anyone with a serious illness, to do the same.
“You have to live life – I have watched a lot of people who have underwent transplants pass away within a few years because they went home, sat in a chair and never did anything,” said Rideout. “Don’t sit back and let yourself die. Do as much as you possibly can.”