A family has a heartfelt Thanksgiving

This Just In...

November 27, 1995|By DAN RODRICKS

She thought she heard her name in the Wolfe Street lobby. It was the night before Thanksgiving at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Sue Wineke thought she heard her name crackling in a loudspeaker somewhere. It spooked her.

She had just visited her husband and was rushing off to prepare a holiday dinner for him. She planned to bring it back the next day -- a taste of home for a husband who had spent two months in the coronary care unit. Then she heard the page: "The family of Larry Wineke

Sue Wineke's first thought was the worst one possible. She had good reason for the fears. Her husband had been through three years of a debilitating heart condition, the installation of a pacemaker, a defibrillator and a heart pump. He hadn't been able to drive a car for two years, hadn't been able to coach the football or junior varsity baseball teams at Calvert Hall, hadn't been able to teach his freshman science class. His condition worsened over the summer. The more his 42-year-old heart pumped, the weaker it became. He was hospitalized at Hopkins on Sept. 15 and hooked up to machines. Larry Wineke was a large man -- 6-foot-3, 250 pounds -- in need of a new heart. He was on the waiting list.

And now, there was that voice in the lobby: "Would the family of Larry Wineke please report .

The next voice Sue Wineke heard was that of her 15-year-old son, Mike, who was yelling: "They got a heart! They got a heart! I know it!"

Mike ran down a hall. So did his mother, and within a few minutes they were standing in front of a nurse, who said, "We think we have a heart." Then someone added, "Looks like it's going to be good."

No false alarm. The last time, the prospective donor turned out to have carried the AIDS virus. This time, the transplant network had found a perfect match. The donor, a 26-year-old accident victim brought to Maryland Shock Trauma Center on Wednesday evening, was the correct size -- with a heart powerful enough to serve Larry Wineke's large body -- and the correct blood type.

A Hopkins surgical team, led by Dr. Peter Greene, started moving into action. Within a few hours, Larry Wineke was on the table and under lights. Starting at 1 a.m., Greene removed the heart pump, defibrillator and pacemaker -- "A lot of hardware," Sue Wineke says -- then he gave the big man a new heart. Surgery was finished at 6 a.m. Larry Wineke was back in his room by 7:30.

It was, of course, Thanksgiving morning.

Later, Sue Wineke sat for dinner with relatives at the home of her mother, Joan Davis, in Arbutus. "It was a good meal, I think," Sue Wineke says. "We could have been eating hot dogs, for all I remember. It didn't matter. We were all just so stunned, staring at each other."

By this weekend, Larry Wineke was sitting up in bed, even taking short walks. "Normal life" is the prognosis he was given.

They occur all the time, especially during the accident-marred holiday season, but transplants are still astounding, aren't they? The Winekes don't know the name of the donor; Sue Wineke thinks the two families might meet some day. "God bless [the donor's family]," she says.

"And we have so many other people to thank. Larry was on so many prayer lists that God probably got tired of hearing it and said this [Thanksgiving] is the day."

And there were all those affairs organized to raise money for Larry Wineke's transplant -- a dance at the fire hall in Arbutus, rugby and lacrosses tournaments, and a big night in 1993 arranged by Bud Clark of Leeds Federal Savings & Loan with Larry King, talk show host and heart attack survivor, as host. The faculty and employees of Calvert Hall even agreed to pay a little extra so that, for Larry Wineke's sake, the school's medical insurance plan would include transplant coverage. His bills should not be as heavy as once feared.

Take all that, that great outpouring of love from family and friends, and it becomes easier to understand how Larry Wineke was able to hold on for so long. Long live the big man.

Olympian in training

When Jackie Hyatt ordered a shot put, javelin and discus from the sporting goods store, the clerk asked if she was shopping for a grandchild. The 66-year-old Hampstead resident, a bronze medalist in the 1995 Senior Olympics, just laughed. She's training for the 1996 games and hopes for a spot on the national team. Jackie's bedroom is a mini-gym with treadmill, rowing machine, weights and a stationary bike. Midnight maneuvers in the darkened room can be tricky. "A little misdirection and I'm in action on the treadmill," she says. "One miscue and my foot is on the pedal of the bike."

It's all in the knee

Sign on a knobless door on Main Street, Westminster: "To open, press right knee against tan trim." According to a recent flier, Boston Market is selling "Hearth Honey Hams" for the holidays, now on sale at 17 Maryland locations, including some place called "Glenn Burris." Overheard in a local post office: "I'd like a sheet of those pre-licked stamps, please."

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