As Vincent Forseth looks forward to commencement, he can’t help but recall a time when his family wasn’t sure he’d make it to his next birthday, let alone college graduation.
“I was born with two holes in my heart. At first, doctors patched the holes and hoped my heart would heal over time, but a week before my seventh birthday, my heart was failing,” Vincent said. “I was rushed from to the Children’s Hospital of Milwaukee and became the first person in the United States to use the Berlin Heart.”
At the time, the Berlin Heart was a radical new medical advancement that pumped blood outside the body. It wasn’t yet FDA approved, but his parents decided to take a chance and it kept Vincent alive until a donor heart could be found.
Typically, heart transplant patients need a new heart every 9-10 years, but March 16, 2023, marked Vincent’s 17th anniversary with his heart. Part of this is credited to the efforts of the cardiologists he meets with every three months and an anti-rejection pill he takes every 12 hours, but Vincent’s own commitment to his health plays a role. By keeping an active lifestyle, he’s earned recognition as one of the healthiest heart transplant patients in the United States.
There were a lot of people who wrote me off because of my health. They told me I couldn’t do certain things or assumed I wouldn’t try. My heart is my second chance and I’ll fight for it every way I can.
One of the best ways Vincent has found to stay active and care for his health is through golf. He developed a love for the game from an early age and earned a degree in Golf Course Management from Southwest Technical College in Fennimore, Wisconsin in 2018. He was working as the Assistant Pro at The Legend at Bergamont in Oregon, Wisconsin when he saw Clarke was recruiting for its Men’s Golf team.
“I’ll always love golf, but life in the pro shop wasn’t going to work for me long-term,” Vincent said. “Going back to school and being able to golf at Clarke felt like a perfect opportunity.”
That’s not to say the transition was easy. While he had the support of his golf coaches and teammates from day one, Vincent admits that he struggled to return to academics. He sought support from Marianne Mauss and others in the MARC. With their help and encouragement from professors like Terri Strata and B’Ann Dittmar, he is now preparing to graduate with a double major in Sport Management and Business Administration.
“My first semester here, I failed one of B’Ann’s classes, but she wasn’t going to give up on me,” Vincent said. “I got my act together and I’m proud to say I had the best presentation in her Principles of Management class this semester. I’m a better and more confident student because of her.”
Vincent is still seeking a full-time job after graduation, though his summer calendar is already filling as an ambassador and business specialist for the Children’s Hospital of Milwaukee. For nearly two decades, he has taken part in local and national fundraisers for the hospital and related research. This summer, he is set to travel to Washington D.C. to speak before Congress. But for Vincent, he takes the most pride in bringing comfort to children and families.
“I meet with families and you can see the tension and the worry they carry. Then I share my story and their shoulders drop. You can see some hope come into their faces,” Vincent said. “To be able to share that is a very powerful thing. I will always find ways to give back and support the Children’s Hospital of Milwaukee.”