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Heart transplant leads to true change of heart for 73-year-old KC man once told he had no hope

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- We are just two days into February, which is American Heart Month.

As part of Heart Month, St. Luke's Health System is honoring a heart patient with a special seat at the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts.

Dr. Michael Borkon met Kamal Mikhail in April 2012 at his very worst.

"Consideration at that point was being given to end of life care and hospice," Dr. Borkon said.

Mikhail's heart had failed, and most doctors had given up on him, but Dr. Borkon saw him as a candidate for a heart transplant.

"In 64 hours from the time that they decided they were going to transplant me, they had a heart," Mikhail said.

After weeks of being on his literal death-bed, Mikhail got the best possible news, he had the chance to live another day.

"The feeling is just like you won the lottery," Mikhail said.

At 73, the Egyptian immigrant who worked his way up for decades continues to work at his steel fabrication company as Vice Chairman and CEO.

His physical heart is strong as the metal he works with, but the heart that truly gives him life has softened.

"You just have to think about that feeling.  You have inside you somebody else's heart, and you're just very, very emotional, and you want to make sure you really serve the other person and honor him."

Mikhail now raises money for the Mid America Heart Institute and tells anyone who will listen about his life-saving transplant.

His heart has even changed when it comes to organ donation.

“I never felt like I wanted to take a piece of my body and donate it," he said. 'Now I feel very strongly about people to really donate to other people."

To honor his dedication to heart health, St. Luke's chose Mikhail as their first St. Luke’s Survivor Seat recipient.  Much like the Buck O'Neil seat at Kauffman Stadium, this seat will be awarded to outstanding survivors at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. His heart surgeon, turned dear friend, will introduce him.

"Kamal gets first chance and as a transplant survivor and one who's given back to the community, I can't think of a better recipient," Dr. Borkon said.

This recipient is using the gift to give to others a lesson on the importance of a "good" heart.

Kamal Mikhail will be breaking in the survivor seat on Tuesday, Feb. 7.  Since his heart transplant, he's helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the heart institute, and he is hoping to use his contacts in the construction business to help build a lodge where families of heart patients can stay while they're getting treatment.