Transplant patient loses struggle at Fairview

by Emily Kaiser

After a lifelong struggle, University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, patient Nick Bergland died Sept. 3 due to complications with an infection.

Bergland, a 15-year-old featured in The Minnesota Daily March 3 issue, received a heart transplant Feb. 19. He was never released from the hospital after his surgery.

Family and friends gathered Saturday at the Cremation Society of Minnesota in Edina to remember his life.

The lobby was filled with picture boards showing some of his times in and out of the hospital. A laptop played a video of his favorite band, the Barenaked Ladies, making a surprise appearance in his hospital room Dec. 18 for a personal show.

During the ceremony, his father, Rich Bergland, said Nick touched so many people with his unique and quirky personality.

“Nick never once asked ‘Why me? Why do I have to go through this?’ ” he said. “Sure he got the poor-mes now and then, but that’s just because he wanted to go home.

“The way he accepted and lived his life was an inspiration to many.”

Nick Bergland was born with a heart defect known as complex congenital heart disease, said Cynthia Herrington, his pediatric cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon.

He was born without a pulmonary artery and only one pumping heart chamber instead of two, she said. He was also autistic.

The infection developed in a recent surgery incision, which eventually caused major complications the doctors could not relieve, Rich Bergland said.

“It finally came to the point where there was nothing we could do,” he said. “We decided to just let him slip away.”

During his last night, Nick Bergland received a video message from the Barenaked Ladies, Rich Bergland said.

It was the last thing he saw, he said.

“You could see he was watching it; he had a smile on his face,” Rich Bergland said.

Even through the last week, his personality still came through, Rich Bergland said.

“Even through the sedation, there were bits and pieces of him,” he said. “You would ask him a question and he would shrug his shoulders, which is typical.”

Nick Bergland was very accepting of his life and condition, said his aunt, Leslie Bergland.

“From the beginning, he had the look in his eyes that he was a deep old soul,” she said. “He was a smart kid; he knew what he had been through and what the complications and risks were.”

After the ceremony, friends and family gathered to share memories while eating pizza and drinking cold water out of Styrofoam cups, Nick Bergland’s favorites.

“He thought pizza was a good food because it represented all the food groups,” Leslie Bergland said.

Despite his struggles, Nick Bergland had many good years, Leslie Bergland said.

“He was so curious and open to new things, and if he didn’t want to try it, he would kindly say ‘No, thank you,’ ” she said.