In August, Michael Crowe, 23, discovered he had a serious heart condition: acute myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle likely caused by a viral infection.
The Omaha man's heart was functioning at only 10 per cent efficiency.
Doctors told Crowe he needed a new heart before other organs started shutting down, the Omaha World-Herald reports.
"If he had come to us any later, his heart would have just stopped," Dr. John Um, Surgical Director of Heart Transplantation at Nebraska Medical Center told ABC News.
Crowe's heart stopped twice.
"When the heart stops, that's defined as clinical death," Dr. Um said. "In this case, his body only stayed alive because the machine was pumping his blood for him."
Anti-clotting medications thinned his blood too much, causing leaks that required blood transfusions. His lungs filled with blood.
Friends and family united in prayer.
Three weeks later, a new heart arrived for Crowe. Unfortunately, Crowe had developed blood poisoning. The transplant was too risky.
"Our joy of 'Yay, there's a heart!' went to devastation," Crowe's sister, Christy, said.
An hour after denying Crowe the transplant, Dr. Eugenia Raichlin noticed that Crowe's blood pressure was up. She ordered a heart ultrasound and discovered that the left chamber of Crowe's heart was back to normal.
While the right ventricle was still not functional, the improvement was substantial enough to give the doctors hope. Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Um cancelled the transplant, trusting that Crowe's heart would continue to mend.
Crowe was hooked up to a mated machine that only assisted the right side of his heart. Within days, his heart was working on it own.
"It just truly is a medical miracle," Margie, Crowe's mother, told the Omaha World-Herald. "Excellent medical care and, I think, the power of prayer."
Dr. Raichlin agreed: "We think this is miracle."
Crowe returned home on Thursday with plans to return to work soon. He takes medications and follows a low-sodium diet. The pharmacy student plans to return to school next year.
"The interesting thing is that if he had gotten a transplant right away, we would have never known if he could have recovered on his own," Dr. Um said. "Now that we have technology that allows people to remain on external heart machines longer, we could see this more."