Nandan Savalia is counting down the days until August.

That's when he'll be one year removed from a heart transplant and likely given the green light to enjoy his gift of life with fewer restrictions.

"I'm feeling much better, my life right now is much better," the married father of two told New Jersey 101.5.

Despite an active lifestyle and watching his diet, Savalia, of Manalapan, suffered a heart attack during a cardio boot camp class in June 2018 at age 45 — he only knew something was off because he couldn't catch his breath after the class, so he decided to go to a local hospital's emergency room.

The heart attack caused severe damage to his heart, which launched a three-year journey that would end happily with a life-saving transplant in August 2021 at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.

"He had an amazing recovery," said Dr. Deepa Iyer, with the hospital and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. "He was able to walk just three days post-transplant and was discharged to his home on August 26, just eight days after his transplant. He follows up for his protocol post-transplant testing and visits, is doing very well and continues to inspire everyone with his dedication and discipline."

One week prior to the life-saving transplant, Savalia lost his father in the same hospital. Special arrangements were made at the hospital so that Savalia could safely visit his father, who had been undergoing cancer treatments and suffered a brain hemorrhage after a serious fall.

“Losing my father was very difficult, but I feel that he went up there (to heaven) for me to make sure there was a heart for me,” he said.

Savalia, now 49 years old, hasn't yet made his way back to the gym, but he's far from stationary. He logs around 10,000 steps every day.

This past Sunday, Savalia was able to celebrate his first Father's Day with a new heart. He's hoping that after the one-year anniversary of the procedure, he's permitted to travel outside the country with his family, as he used to do, and increase his physical activity.

“I lost three years of my life, so it is good to get life back to normal,” he said. “My advice to other patients is to never give up. Always stay active to boost your body and stay ready for when that day comes.”

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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