Sharing His Gifts and Gratitude

Updated: 6/27/2014

Charles “Charlie” Broncato greets outpatients arriving for cardiac testing procedures three days a week at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital with a welcoming smile and friendly conversation to ease their angst. Charlie’s comforting personality make him a perfect fit for the volunteer job, but most individuals would never guess that he has also experienced the same tests and anxiety. In 2009, Charlie feared for his life, desperately needing a heart transplant.

If it were not for organ and blood donation, Charlie would not be here today. After a long battle with double pneumonia in 2008, Charlie’s heart was damaged, and his ability to function in everyday life plummeted. At that time, he was a retired salesman from Bayer® and volunteered in the surgical waiting room, but he had to resign because he could barely walk five feet without gasping for air. Charlie knew that his only chance at regaining the active quality of life he had known — an athlete, a salesman on the road and father of two children — was to undergo a heart transplant. “I had to think about it for a little while, but you will do what you have to do to survive,” said Charlie.

After being in the hospital on the waiting list for four months and two hearts that were not up to the physician’s expectations for Charlie, he finally received a transplant on January 9, 2009 from a young man who had died in a car accident. Those undergoing a transplant also require 10-12 pints of blood to be transfused during the procedure. With the odds stacked against him and the chance of recovery slim, Charlie was thankful for a second chance. It was a full year before he recovered completely, and he continues to undergo extensive cardiac testing every year to detect and avoid any problems that could compromise his heart.

When asked about his volunteer service Charlie responds, “I have always given back to the community because I have been so fortunate throughout my life, but I knew after that it was time to provide more. Someone gave their life so I could continue to live, and that is the ultimate gift. Now, I try to help people relax their fears and understand that everyone is here to help them.”

Charlie is forever grateful to the young man who gifted his heart that continues to keep him full of life. He was at the time and currently remains the oldest recipient of a heart transplant in New York State and among the top five oldest in the country. Charlie kindly shared his story to help others see the importance of blood, tissue and organ donation.

Employees across Kaleida Health can give the gift of life by donating blood or registering as an organ donor during an upcoming community blood drive:
Tuesday, July 1: Larkin at Exchange
Tuesday, July 8: Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital
Tuesday, July 15: Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo
Tuesday, August 5: Buffalo General Medical Center
Thursday, August 7: DeGraff Memorial Hospital