AMES, Iowa — Steven Graham is starting the new year with a new outlook on life.

“There’s really nothing that can express what it’s like to know you probably should have died twice,” Graham said, “and somehow you didn’t.”

Since he was a baby, Graham has defied the odds. He was born with his heart in backwards, a rare defect that doctors were able to correct.

“They either catch it and you live, or they miss it and you don’t,” said Graham.

By age 30, his heart was starting to fail.

“It was kind of like a realization like ‘Oh, you are dying, you do need to figure this out,’” Graham said.

In December of 2020, Graham went to Mayo Clinic where doctors went straight to work on saving his life.

“Initially they thought I would need a heart and lung transplant,” Graham explained, “but thankfully all the meds and the balloon pump was able to relieve all that pressure.”

Balloon pumps are typically placed through a patient’s leg, keeping them bed ridden. Doctors at Mayo discovered a new way of placing it through the arm.  It meant Graham could stay active, and his lungs could regenerate.

“I was riding 10 miles a day on a stationary bike,” Graham said, “trying to stay as healthy as I could.”

Healthy enough that after just two months, he ended up getting that new heart. And with it, a new outlook on life.

“We are all so much more closely connected than we could ever imagine,” Graham said. “So anything we can do to just love and honor each other is really what living is all about.”

Graham is going back to work in person in January. His New Year’s resolution is to learn how to rock climb. He said what he’s really thankful for are things he wasn’t able to do before his transplant, like putting his daughter to bed.