An East Grand Forks police officer is back at work after receiving a heart transplant earlier this year, and his fellow officers will soon hold a benefit to assist him with medical costs.

East Grand Forks Police Detective Sgt. Tony Hart came back to the city on June 17 after having undergone a heart transplant operation on March 1 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He’s back at work now on light duty, and once again with colleagues he hasn’t seen since December 2020.

“It felt great, just being able to be working and around my coworkers that I've missed for the last six or seven months,” said Hart. “I spent six months laying in a bed so it's nice to get out.”

For Hart, being back at work means handling evidence and doing other office tasks. He said coming back to work is a slow process, but that he “feels good.” On busier days, he said he feels tired after work, which he noted is nothing out of the ordinary considering what he has been through.

Lt. Rod Hajicek said having Hart back at work has been a morale boost for the department. He stayed in touch with Hart throughout his time in Rochester, Minn., and is glad to have his help in the office. Hajicek and others know, however, that Hart still has a long road ahead of him.

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“He's got a lifetime of medications,” Hajicek said.

Hart has a lengthy treatment regimen to attend to. He continues dialysis and rehab appointments several times a week, and also has regular follow-up appointments at the Mayo Clinic. The treatments are part of Hart and his wife Katie’s “new normal.”

And that new normal also includes medical costs. To help defray some of those costs, the East Grand Forks Police Department has organized a benefit for Hart, and is reaching out to the community for assistance.

The department, in conjunction with the Eagles Club, Lodge 8 of the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police and the Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club, will hold a benefit and silent auction on Aug. 26, at the Eagles’ East Grand Forks location, at 227 10th St. northwest. The event will run from 4-9 p.m., and the silent auction will begin at 5:30 p.m.

The department is seeking donations to offset the costs of meals at the benefit, as well as items to be donated for the silent auction. Donations can be brought to the police department, at 520 DeMers Avenue. Tax-deductible contributions can be made to the EGFPD Police Association, or can be deposited directly into the Tony Hart account at Frandsen Bank, in East Grand Forks.

In 2008, Hart was diagnosed with heart disease, but treatment only took him so far. He lived with the condition until fall of 2020, when treatment became unsuccessful. In December, he went into organ failure and was airlifted to the Mayo Clinic, where it was determined he would need a heart transplant.

Katie Hart stayed with her husband throughout his months of treatment and heart transplant. She was able to work remotely during those difficult months, and Hart expressed his gratitude to S & S Transport, in Grand Forks, where she works.

“She's just got a great company over there,” he said. “I can't say enough about them.”