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Heart transplant recipient to walk in all 50 states

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MCFARLAND, Wis. (WMTV) -- Two heart attacks, a quadruple bypass and diagnosed congestive heart failure are different health hurdles part of Jerry McCann's health journey.

With each day, McCann heals, but it's with each step, he's trying to make the most of with his second chance at life.

Jerry and Margaret McCann have always loved walking together.

"It's a good day to have a good day," Margaret said. "Clever saying," Jerry said in response. "It was Jerry's line. I stole it," Margaret said.

Jerry and Margaret have been married for 44 years, through good days and bad.

"In 1991, I was 39 years old, and I had a quadruple bypass," Jerry said.

Jerry would go on to survive a second heart attack in 2000, three defibrillators, then a congestive heart failure diagnosis to find his health deteriorating. The next option doctors suggested was an Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) to help his heart function while waiting on the transplant list for a new heart.

"The LVAD saved my life for sure," Jerry said.

The LVAD is a machine that's used either to partially or completely replace the function of a failing heart. The LVAD is a pump that is used for patients who have reached end-stage heart failure, according to standfordhealthcare.org. Doctors surgically implant the LVAD, a battery-operated, mechanical pump, which then helps the left ventricle pump blood to the rest of the body.

"I was dead against the idea of getting it to begin with when it was suggested to me," Jerry said. "The idea of being kept alive by a machine just was not something that interested me."

Then, after talking to a couple of different people who had LVADs and then transplants, one person put it all into perspective for Jerry, he said.

"She told me we need to realize we’re on God's time, not our time," Jerry said. "That kind of turned that light on. I guess, I should have this LVAD because I don’t really have any control at this point."

Helping Jerry through all the hurdles, was his wife Margaret, especially during his two years with the LVAD. Margaret said having the LVAD was good becasue Jerry was able to do things he previously could not, however it was still "very cumbersome."

"When Jerry had his LVAD, it was so much better than when he was trying through heart failure to survive," Margaret said.

The longer Jerry had the LVAD, the McCanns started thinking the LVAD would be the new normal. Margaret said Jerry was not moving up on the transplant list, until one night the call came.

"We turned off the lights. I was sleeping. Jerry just turned off the lights, when the phone rang; he picked it up. Because he didn’t have his glasses on, and no light on, he hung up," Margaret said. "He said it was the hospital. I said, 'what?' And it [the phone] rang again, and the person who called said, 'Can you be at the hospital in the next two hours,?' Jerry said, 'We’re almost there,'" Margaret said.

The McCanns went to the hospital and Jerry got a new heart.

"My new birthday is July 25, 2014," Jerry said.

Jerry has a new heart, now with new goals.

"We want to get the word out about organ donation," Jerry said, "and also, the fact that, for people who have heart transplants or heart issues, that you're life is not over."

Jerry and Margaret are now on a mission to participate in an American Heart Association Heart Walk in all 50 states. So far they've walked at the following 16 walks: Florida, Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, Arizona, Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Connecticut, Nebraska, South Dakota and Nevada.

"Walking with our kids is the highlight of our walks," Margaret said. "When we did the Orlando [Heart] Walk and the Portland [Heart] Walk, Seattle [Heart] Walk and Vegas [Heart] Walk. They come to Madison."

Each walk means more with each step.

"Everyday is a gift," Jerry said. "A lot of things that used to annoy you, don't anymore. I think I'm more focused on the more important things in life."

Important things in life, like love -- the same kind in Jerry's old heart, now also found in his new one.

Click to the right to learn more about the LVAD and the American Heart Association Heart Walks.

Read the original version of this article at nbc15.com.