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Recipient Stories

My Life Seemed So Perfect

It was around Thanksgiving of 2000 and I remember thinking my life seemed so perfect. I was 31 years old, I had a beautiful wife and we were at the OSU Medical Center celebrating the birth of our daughter, Marilyn. Exactly one year later, I was back in the hospital, but this time I was fighting for my life. My heart was failing.

I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t breathe while lying down, and I couldn’t play with my daughter.

It was terrifying when the doctors told me that the only chance I had for a future was a heart transplant. Suddenly my life was a battle to survive and I knew it was a battle I couldn’t win alone. I was fortunate to have my immediate and extended family by my side supporting and encouraging me every step of the way, but despite all their care and attention, and all the skills of my doctors, I knew I was dependent upon the kindness of a stranger.

Someone’s decision to be a donor would be my “Gift of Life.”

While waiting for a new heart, I was so sick that I couldn’t leave the hospital. Then, on St. Patrick’s Day, a surgeon came in and told me that I would be receiving my transplant. At that moment, there were so many emotions rushing through me. Excitement. Fear. Hope. But, most of all, Gratitude. I said goodbye to my wife and daughter and was taken into surgery.

From the first moment I woke up I knew that I was going to be OK. I took a big breath and reached my hands out toward the voices of my wife and my father. Ten days later I was home with my family and the simple things in life became a cause for celebration. Taking my first walk around the block was as exciting for me as if I had won a marathon. Being able to play in the park with my daughter and climb the ladder to ride the slide was my personal Everest.

Two months after my heart transplant, I returned to playing 18 holes of golf, and within 6 months we took a vacation to the Outer banks of North Carolina so that I could go surfing again. Thanks to a donor, my active healthy life was returning.

In the three years since my transplant, although there have been challenges, I have been enjoying every moment of every day. I have lived life to the fullest and been blessed in so many ways. I cherish the time I have been able to spend with family and friends and this past year, again around Thanksgiving time, my wife and I were back in OSU hospital for the birth of our son.

The decision of this compassionate stranger did much more than just save my life. It changed the lives of my family as well. It kept my beautiful wife, Valerie, from being a widow, it allowed my daughter, Marilyn, to grow up with a daddy, and it kept my son, Byron, from being nothing more than just a dream.

Thanks to the heart of a stranger, I can look forward to a future where I can teach my son to walk, and throw a ball, and play a round of golf with me. Because of their gift I can teach my daughter to read, watch her graduate from high school, and be there to walk her down the aisle when she gets married. I can also recommit all the love this new heart can hold to Valerie as we grow old together.

So, with tears in my eyes, and gratitude in my heart I thank my donor and all donors and their families for the “Gift of Life” you have shared with us. You will forever live on in our lives.

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