By Anthony Hines, heart recipient
In the late 90s, I was driving a truck for work for the City of Columbus street maintenance team when I began having chest pains. I was able to get myself to the hospital and spent a week there undergoing testing.
The doctors told me I had a heart attack. At the time, I didn’t realize it was only the first of many more to come.
I went back to work after that first heart attack and thought I would be OK. One year later, I had another heart attack. I learned that I had an enlarged heart and arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat. I had an internal defibrillator installed to keep me alive if I had more heart attacks.
My health was declining and in 2001 I quit my job of 20 years with the City of Columbus. It got to the point where the wind could take my breath away. I lived in an apartment with steps and eventually I just couldn’t go up them anymore.
My wife, Terry, was working to support us and she would have to leave me at my mother’s house every day because I needed constant supervision. I was only 53 years old and I saw my health slipping away from me.
Over the next eight years, my defibrillator went off eight times. That means I had eight heart attacks and each time, it was terrifying. A funny sensation would come over me and before I knew it, I would fall to the ground, feeling as though I had been kicked in the chest.
My heart was so weakened after the attacks that I was listed for a transplant on May 14, 2010. The next day, my defibrillator fired 15 times.
As the defibrillator went off, I made it to the bedroom and found my bible. Having the device go off that many times was indescribable. I was praying as my family called 911. All I could do was pray.
Fortunately, I was able to get to the hospital and stabilized. At that point, a transplant was my only hope for survival.
On May 22, 2010 I received that call that a heart was available. They told me not to get too excited, but I did. I almost fell out of the hospital bed and tears filled my eyes.
The next day, I underwent the transplant. I immediately felt 200 percent better. I couldn’t believe how incredible I felt because of this heart. Because of my donor.
I had been sick for so long that I had to regain my strength. As soon as I did, I was ready to go!
I went fishing, I cleaned the house, I made spaghetti and meatballs, meatloaf, chicken, salmon, anything I could! I owed so much to my wife and my mother for taking care of me. It was so great to be an active part of the family again.
It’s been almost two years and I am so thankful for my transplant. I’ve written to my donor’s family to say thank you. I said thank you for their generosity, for the chance to live my life, see my four grandsons grow up and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. I hope to meet them some day to thank them in person.
Until then, I share my story and offer support to others with heart disease. I work with a local heart support group to speak with transplant survivors and visit heart patients to give them hope.
I also became involved with Lifeline of Ohio to encourage others to register as donors. Before I became sick, I hadn’t registered as a donor, I didn’t think I coud be one. You better believe I’m a registered donor now! I hope people reading my story will understand how important it is to take the time to make that decision and sign up in the Ohio Donor Registry.