Tuesday’s Tale: I Got My Life Back
10 years ago I received the best gift anyone could ever ask for: I got my life back. Things I never thought possible have come true: hopes, dreams, and ambitions; all possible because of one person’s selfless act of kindness. I am eternally grateful that I am here to share my story. Every day I am able to look around me and feel ever so thankful for how far I have come.
My story begins in 1968, before I was even born. My mom lost her sister at the age of 13 to familial cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition that weakens the heart. As a little boy, I was diagnosed with the same disease.
I knew since 1988, at the young age of six that the day was going to come when I would need a transplant. It wasn’t if, but when it was going to happen. Luckily, medicine was able to control my condition until my junior year of high school. One day in January 2000, I was playing an indoor soccer game when I started having, what I thought, was an asthma attack. Asthma was something I had struggled with since I could remember. I was dependent on a preventative inhaler, and emergency inhaler and a breathing machine (which I had to use five to six times per year). After we got home, my mom’s instinct as a nurse kicked in and she realized this was most likely more than asthma.
Other than the asthma, I had never really been sick. It was like all of this was hitting me out of nowhere. For the next three months, I was in and out of Nationwide Children’s Hospital for a week at a time. They were giving me medicine that was designed to “recharge” my heart. It took those three months to realize that nothing was working. We found out that my heart condition has taken a turn for the worse. I remember when I was on my way in for that last checkup and my mom recommended that I pack a bag. I didn’t realize that this was the last time I would be home in a long time.
I was listed for a heart on March 12, 2000 and spent the next seven months at the Ohio State University Medical Center waiting, wishing and praying for a miracle. As my dad ran the family business, my mom was by my side the entire time. I think she only left the hospital twice in those seven months. I spent that entire time in bed, constantly hooked up to an IV and medicine for blood pressure. After a little more than half a year of waiting, my gift finally arrived. I received my heart on September 14, 2000 and was able to go home 6 days later, the day after my 18th birthday.
So much has happened since that day. After taking the remainder of that year off from school, I was able to graduate from Bishop Rosecrans where I was captain of the golf team, played basketball and was able to attend my senior prom.
I am now working full time and have bought my own home in Zanesville, Ohio. One of the most exciting moments in the last 10 years was meeting my future wife, Kali. We met through mutual friends there are so many things that I love about her. Very little ever gets her down, and she has this smile that seems to just light up a room. While vacationing in Hawaii with my family in April 2010, I proposed to her at sunset on the beach. I couldn’t imagine spending my life with anyone else. We are planning to get married in 2011.
I know that none of these things would have been possible without my donor’s selfless gift. We have corresponded with the family a few times each year and I am hoping to meet them soon. I have been able to experience so much and do so many things, I am not sure I really know the proper way to say thank you. Words just don’t seem to be enough, but I will try to express my gratitude by living this life to the fullest.
To this day I still keep in touch with some of my nurses and doctors from OSU. They brought me so much comfort and became an extended family during my stay at the hospital. I am grateful for the work they do to make transplantation possible.
If I could have someone take away one thing from my story, it would be to register as an organ and tissue donor. Disregard the myths, learn the facts and make the right decision. Every day is a gift to me, all because someone decided to say yes to donation. Each day, I tell my donor, “Thank you,” for the opportunity to live.