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Recipient Stories

Giving Back for My Gift

In May 2007 a trip to the doctor changed my life. I had an ultrasound to check on issues from kidney stones when doctors saw fluid in my lungs. My lungs were full of water because my heart was failing.

It was really surprising to learn that I had five blockages in my heart and already had two heart attacks. Looking back, I recognized the symptoms. At the time, I just thought I was having complications from medications I was taking for other illnesses.

My heart was at 15 percent function and I went to have a quadruple bypass the next day. Doctors hoped that bypass surgery could mend my heart, but it couldn’t recover. They put me on a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) to keep me alive until I could have a transplant.

I had to be as healthy as possible to receive my transplant, and that meant I had to quit smoking. I went six months smoke-free and was given the OK to receive a transplant. On Dec. 26, 2007 I joined the national transplant waiting list.

As I waited, I became weaker. Because I had an LVAD, I lost muscle strength. I was barely moving by the time the call came that a heart was available for me. It was Jan. 6, 2008 – a day I consider my second birthday.

Mark and fellow heart recipient, Anthony Hines, volunteer at the 2011 Dash for Donation

After the transplant surgery, I felt a difference right away. I was ready to go home after five days and was walking on a treadmill in a little more than a week.

It’s been four years and there’s no stopping me now! I am able to enjoy my life.  I chop my own wood to heat my home in Zanesville, I spend time with my daughters and I make the most of every day I’ve been given.

Right after my transplant, I felt the need to give back for the gift I received. I started volunteering and I really like working at health fairs with Lifeline of Ohio and talking to people, sharing my story and encouraging them to register as organ and tissue donors.

I’ve also joined a couple support groups for heart patients. I try to talk them through their experiences, share mine and help them stay positive.

I know I wouldn’t be here without my donor. I write to my donor’s family every year around the time of my transplant. I haven’t heard back yet, but I just want them to know how grateful I am.

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