Tyler Holst holds the certificate he received from the Mayo Clinic signifying him as the 651st person to receive a heart transplant at the hospital in the last 30 years. 
Tyler Holst holds the certificate he received from the Mayo Clinic signifying him as the 651st person to receive a heart transplant at the hospital in the last 30 years. PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA
    ZUMBROTA, Minn. – This holiday season has quite literally been heart-filled for the Holst family.
    After waiting nearly two years, Tyler Holst received a heart transplant Sept. 24 and arrived home Nov. 20, just in time for the holidays. Tyler’s family – parents, Shane and Casey, and sister, Kelsey, 13 – are thankful they could spend this time of year together at home on their 200-cow dairy near Zumbrota, Minn.
    “Thanksgiving was special,” Shane said. “It was nice for everyone to be home.”
    Tyler was also able to be home for his 10th birthday on Nov. 25 and is looking forward to Christmas at home, too.
    “We’re relieved it’s done,” Casey said about the transplant.
    Shane agreed.
    “We don’t have to wait for the call or think about when we’re going to get a call,” he said.
    Since November 2016 when Tyler was put on the heart transplant list, he has been waiting for the call that a donor heart had arrived for him. It was the only long-term treatment for his protein-losing enteropathy. When the Holsts received the call, they had to arrive within four hours for the surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
    “Our bags have always been packed,” Casey said.
    On Sept. 24, they arrived within 1.5 hours after the phone rang at 3:58 a.m.
    “I was tired,” Tyler said of the early morning wake up call.
    Casey said she felt calm when she saw the number on the phone.
    “But, as soon as I hung up I turned into a basket case,” she said. “It was an unreal feeling.”
    Tyler was the 651st heart transplant conducted by the Mayo Clinic in the last 30 years.
    After a 10-hour surgery, Tyler recovered in the hospital for 2.5 weeks before being discharged to stay in the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester, Minn. But the next day, they were back in for appointments and readmitted after finding out Tyler’s body was starting to reject the new organ.
    Tyler spent another two weeks in the hospital and then went back to the Ronald McDonald House.
    “We had to stay close to the hospital,” said Casey, who stayed with Tyler during his stay.
    On Nov. 20, Tyler and his mom were able to go home.
    “They let us come home a month early,” Casey said. “Originally we were suppose to stay in Rochester, but we live close and the doctors feel comfortable with me knowing what to do.”
    During those months, Shane and Kelsey stayed on the farm to take care of the daily chores and so Kelsey could attend school. The two would try to visit Tyler and Casey when they could, which was usually about twice a week in the evenings after milking. Getting away from the farm this fall was difficult, Shane said.
    “It wasn’t a very fun harvest,” he said.
    Plus the farm was hit by a tornado Sept. 20, just four days before Tyler received the call for a new heart. The Holsts are still trying to make final fixes to the buildings and catching up after a busy harvest season.   
    But having Tyler home with a new heart makes up for it.
    “Now we just have to stay healthy,” Casey said. “The flu is very scary to us. Tyler can basically live a normal life. He just has to be careful of sickness and germs because he’s immunosuppressed. He’ll always be immunosuppressed because of the antirejection medication he has to take every day.”
    Right now, Tyler is being tutored at home until the flu season passes. He must also wait one year to step in the barn or do any farm chores. If doctors clear him for farm work at that time, he is excited to help his dad with fieldwork and see the animals again.
    He is also excited to grow. Since developing PLE, Tyler’s height has been stunted; however, his doctors said he should add height in the coming months after he is taken off a few medications.
    Although the Holsts had baked Christmas cookies, they admitted they had not done much shopping for Christmas. Tyler had been thankful to all the people who gave him presents and Amazon gift cards while in the hospital.
    But this year gifts and material items seem secondary to having full-filled hearts from getting a much needed heart transplant.