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Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Minnesota State Patrol is calling attention to the actions taken by several of its troopers to save the life of a man waiting for a donor heart at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

The troopers recently had the opportunity to meet the recipient of the donor heart at the Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester following the successful surgery in late October. Heart transplants are always very challenging, but in this case, the highly disruptive Highway 52 reconstruction project between the Twin Cities and Rochester added a big hurdle to be cleared before the donor heart could reach the recipient.

Concrete paving along Highway-52 near Hader (Minnesota Department of Transportation)
Concrete paving along Highway-52 near Hader (Minnesota Department of Transportation) October 27, 2023
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“Our troopers never know what their next call will be, but they are ready and willing to respond to whatever is needed," said Col. Matt Langer, chief of the State Patrol. “One call to dispatch was all it took fo​r the State Patrol team to create an excellent plan and execute it safely. It really goes to show how our troopers go above and beyond to help community members across Minnesota."

A narrative of the events the day of the transplant surgery posted by the State Patrol says Lieutenant Mitch Elzen was the on-call supervisor that night when the State Patrol dispatch was contacted by Mayo Clinic Doctor Mauricio Villavicencio who explained the donor heart was in the Twin Cities and was more than an hour away from Rochester with the highway between the cities torn up for the reconstruction project. The Mayo position requested a lights and siren escort for the organ procurement team and the precious heart.

The State Patrol says Lieutenant Elzen wanted to help, but knew it would be difficult for the troopers involved to keep another vehicle safe during the passage. He came up with a better option and explained the medical staff could ride in the back of a squad car with a trooper behind the wheel.

State Trooper
photo by Andy Brownell/Townsquare Media-Rochester
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Another State Trooper, Mike Prevear, met the medical team with the donor heart at an exit ramp in the Twin Cities and raced down to Cannon Falls with the squad car lights and sirens activated. The State Patrol says the group then met Trooper Quintin O'Reilly at Cannon Falls and he completed the journey to Rochester to deliver the donor heart within the required timeline.

Kim David/Townsquare Media
Kim David/Townsquare Media
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“The troopers helped minimize the ischemic time — the length of time the heart does not receive blood flow — resulting in an outstanding outcome for this sick patient who was in a stabilized cardiogenic shock at the Mayo Clinic," Villavicencio said. “His recovery was phenomenal."

The State Patrol says Troopers Elzen, Prevear, and O'Reilly were able to meet with the heart transplant recipient on January 2.

“We do a lot of stuff with the patrol and never see the real outcome at the end," Elzen said. “It was awesome just to see his face and see him smiling. We were just a small portion of that, but to help out was great."

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