- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) - Larry McCauley drove down a steep dirt road that descended into the Snake River Canyon.

Water trickled down the canyon wall to his left, and to his right, a drop off overlooking the green waters below.

McCauley, 70, knows this road all too well. Walking this road in the winter cost him his heart but not his life.

For more than 30 years, he has taken this road down to the canyon floor. It’s the only way to reach the hydroelectric power plant where he’s worked for more than 30 years. On a September day, McCauley eased his pickup truck over the road’s bumps - and 14 percent grade - into an area called Pigeon Cove.

McCauley celebrated 30 years of living with a heart transplant on Oct. 8. He has a lot to celebrate; the average survival rate for adults is 10 years, reported the Times-News (https://bit.ly/2eIxalf).

On the road two weeks earlier, it was lightly raining but McCauley has seen worse. He used to travel this road when water covered the road with ice. That’s when he would park his vehicle at the top and hike his way to the bottom. He used to hold onto a rope between metal stakes to keep from slipping.

His wife of 50 years, Connie, worried about him all the time.

“It was a terrible mess that year,” Connie said. “He had to go to work. And he’s not the one to shirk responsibilities at work.”

The Pigeon Cove power plant is a family business. It was started by the McCauley, Turnipseed and Lorian families. The hydroelectric plant is powered by collected irrigation water that drains into the canyon. The power is sold to Idaho Power and delivered through transformers outside the building.

It’s called Pigeon Cove because a large number of the birds roost in the high cliffs above.

“In the winter, it’s really fun getting out of here,” he said. “I’ve done everything on this grade. I’ve turned a truck around on this grade. If you don’t have chains on, don’t go down this grade.”

A ditch was eventually dug to stop the ice from forming, but not before McCauley was diagnosed with pneumonia. In 1986, McCauley was still walking grade for work, breathing in cold air. Although he started to feel sick, he kept up his daily work.

By the time it was diagnosed, the pneumonia had caused cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle becomes enlarged or thick.

He was sent to a doctor in Boise and then sent to Salt Lake City.

His body was retaining fluids. His ankles and legs were swollen. His heart was enlarged and pressed against his lung, making it hard to breathe.

Only 30 percent of this heart was working. A heart transplant was his only option.

He was on the waiting list for five days when he received the call that a heart was available. A 21-year-old man had died in a bicycle accident in Salt Lake City, and McCauley, who was 40, received his heart.

He was the 52nd patient to receive a heart transplant at the University of Utah Medical Hospital. McCauley was in the hospital for three weeks after his surgery, and then he and his wife moved into an apartment complex next to the airport. He was supposed to stay there for six months, but stayed only four. He was back to work eight months after his transplant and full-time again after a year.

McCauley said he had a mild rejection at first and still takes anti-rejection medicine every morning. He considers himself pretty lucky and healthy, despite a recent prostate cancer diagnosis.

McCauley wore a gray sweatshirt, blue jeans and a tan cap with the words Beltone stitched in navy thread when he checked on the power plant Sept. 21. The turbine inside roared loudly as McCauley sat inside a control booth. As McCauley drove out of the canyon, the sky was gray and cloudy. Some days the sun is so bright over the horizon that he can’t see the road.

It wasn’t yet noon and he was done for the day after getting to work at 5:30 a.m. to check on the Crystal Springs power plant. He now works part-time on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

He had a doctor tell him, “Larry, you’re going to have to take care of yourself.” It’s advice he takes to heart.

McCauley visited his doctor about four months ago. His next appointment is in November.

These are his keys to healthy living:

Watch what you’re doing.

Don’t overdo it.

Take your medication.

“I guess I’m kind of crazy in a way,” he said. “You take care of yourself and you don’t rely on the doctors. I don’t worry about needing to go to the doctor. You need to take care of your system.”

___

Information from: The Times-News, https://www.magicvalley.com


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