CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Jerry Dorsey is the first in the state to receive this transplant called “Heart in a Box.”

The past five weeks have been difficult, but Dorsey says the procedure saved his life.

Five years ago, Dorsey had a stroke and suddenly his life changed drastically. He needed a new heart so doctors placed a device inside of him until he could get one.

Four and half years later, the phone rang. It was the call of a lifetime.

“God was supposed to send me an angel,” said Dorsey. “He sent me a whole team.”

Doctors at Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Heart Hospital performed a first of its kind transplant in Illinois called “Heart in a Box.”

Doctors can use a heart that stopped beating, resusitate it, put it in a box, and keep it going until the transplant. Transplants are usually done using hearts that are still beating when taken from the donor.

“I haven’t even had a chance to express anything because I’ve been just going through the pains of just wanting to get back home and get comfortable and then I can realize that ‘Hey, I’m back,'” Dorsey said.

Dorsey’s co-worker, Liz Bowden, says this was well-deserved.

“Jay is beloved on campus,” said Bowden. “He is well known and well-loved on campus and people have been really excited that he finally has gotten a new heart.”

Dorsey won’t be the last one to benefit. Doctors say this new technology is a game changer. It will allow almost 30% more hearts to be available to those in desperate need.

For Dorsey, the last five years could be considered a blur.

“I feel like I’m just right back to the person I was,” said Dorsey. “I’m still working at my own pace.”

Bowden has nearly speechless when I asked her what it meant to see Dorsey back on his feet.

“Sitting with him five and half years ago, seeing him then to now, it’s been an incredible journey and I’m so happy he’s finally back to his place,” Bowden said.

Sometimes all it takes is a second chance.

“He has the biggest heart in the world, so much so he needed a second one to finish his life,” Bowden said.

Dorsey’s surgery could set the new medical precedent and could help thousands seeking a heart transplant.

In 2021, over 7,000 patients were on the heart transplant list.