By Jim Hines, heart recipient
A routine physical in 2004 revealed that I had an irregular heartbeat, a surprise to me! I immediately had an internal defibrillator implanted that to keep my heart in rhythm.
Just a few years later I needed knee replacement surgery and my doctors wondered if I was strong enough to handle it. It turns out my heart wasn’t strong enough and in October 2008 I was told I had congestive heart failure.
For the next two years, I was in and out of the hospital many times. I would get out of breath with everything I did, and struggled with small tasks. I had fluid building up on my body and my illness was becoming progressively worse.
I wouldn’t be here without my wife, Rita. She was terrific with everything and kept me positive. We both believed that God’s plan would work out.
By January 2011, my cardiologist told me there was nothing more he could do for me. He said I was too old for a heart transplant or an LVAD (left ventricle assist device).
My wife, Rita, and my two sons visited a funeral home to make initial arrangements. Then Rita ran into a friend of ours who is a nurse. She suggested that we get another opinion from the cardiologist that she works with. This cardiologist took one look at me and said I was definitely a candidate for a heart transplant.
I was referred to the heart transplant program at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. I underwent ten days of testing to ensure that I was healthy enough for a transplant. I was cleared and listed in March and then sent home to wait for a heart.
While I was at home, I had a nurse visit me periodically. On April 22, Good Friday, we were talking about when the call would come. One of us had just said, “I wonder what they’re going to say when they call about a heart.”
Then the phone rang.
After seven weeks of waiting, a heart was available for me. I received my transplant the next day. I feel like I was taken to the edge of death and then God, in His mercy, gave me my life back through the gift of a heart transplant. We believe this whole experience was a total miracle.
The doctors, nurses, and professional staff the medical center were absolutely incredible. But I would not be here today had it not been for some unselfish donor who made this all possible. I feel so grateful for what my donor did for me. This transplant saved my life.
Today, at the age of 69, I feel better than I have in years!
I give back for my gift by attending a heart transplant support group meeting to help anyone with questions about what we’ve been through. I also volunteer once a week serving food to the homeless and recently signed up as a Donate Life Ambassador with Lifeline of Ohio. I want to help get the word out about being an organ donor in any way I can. I wasn’t too old to receive a transplant, and you’re never too old to donate.
I’ve had some great opportunities since I received my second chance at life. I took to the catwalk at Sak’s Fifth Avenue, modeling a sharp suit for a benefit for The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. That was a blast!
My youngest son arranged for me to carry the game ball to the field during the last home game of the 2011 season for the Cincinnati Reds. On my way back, Reds’ manager, Dusty Baker, stood up and shook my hand and congratulated me. He told me he had a friend in California who just had a transplant. That’s a day I’ll never forget.
I’m also appreciating the little things: spending time in my garden, mowing the lawn and working in my garage. I have two grandchildren, Will and Ellie, and look forward to celebrating this Easter with them with a new perspective on life.
I’ve written to my donor family to thank them for all of these things and I received a letter back from my donor’s sister, which was remarkable. I hope to get the chance to meet them soon and thank them in person.
Thanks to this gift, I don’t take life for granted. I stop and smell the roses, which are especially sweet this spring.