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Recipient Stories

My Second Chance – Ruth Vollrath

As I recovered from my heart transplant in May, 2005, my first thoughts were with a family who was very loving and kind. In the grief of losing their precious son Michael, they supported his decision to be an organ donor, which saved 8 lives.

I was given a second chance of life after a 1 ½ year wait on the heart transplant list at The Ohio State University Medical Center’s Ross Heart Hospital. My heart disease began at age 40. At first medicine was used to treat the symptoms. Over the next 20 years, a pacemaker, defibrillator implant, and medications were used to prolong my life.

In 2003, a heart failure doctor asked me to give thought to a heart transplant. I was age 59. With the support of my husband Phil, I made the decision to put my name on the transplant list. My heart was closely monitored during my wait for the success of a transplant.

My energy decreased daily. For two years at night, I slept on three pillows for several hours, and then slept in a chair the rest of the night. I would do my work and shopping during the day when I felt my best. I was too weak to drive a car several weeks before the transplant. Since my transplant, I can do anything without tiring or shortness of breath. The sky’s the limit in what I plan to do. The calendar might need more days in the week.

My life is now dedicated to helping others. I volunteer for Lifeline of Ohio, promoting organ donation so others on the transplant list might have prolonged or improved lives. I enjoy delivering mobile meals twice a week to shut-ins and senior citizens. I am on two church committees. Phil and I love to do activities with our family and seven grandchildren, and attend their Christmas programs and school activities. I enjoy teaching piano to my granddaughters. In the spring of 2007, we are looking forward to grandchild number eight!

In June 2006, which was just one year after my transplant, I went to the U.S. Transplant Games in Louisville, KY – Olympic-style games for transplant recipients. I completed the 5k walk with thoughts of gratitude and honor to my donor.

Phil and I love to travel. I can hike to my heart’s content and now keep up with Phil. We attended the Rose Bowl Parade in January, 2007. A rose was on the “Donate Life” float in honor of my heart donor, Michael. We attended the program “Glory of Christmas” at the Crystal Cathedral, traveled to Las Vegas, Death Valley, Lake Havasu where the old London Bridge was rebuilt from England, the Borax mine, which used twenty mule teams, and a gold mine town on Route 66. The trip was wonderful and only possible because of my heart transplant.

I received a miracle from God. He and His transplant angels put together the puzzle pieces for my heart transplant: Dr. Feldman, Dr. Leier, Dr. Sun, nurses Susan and Emily, Ross Heart Hospital and OSU Medical Center staffs, Michael, his parents, Lifeline of Ohio, my family, relatives, friends, heart researchers, med flight crew, and many others.

My heart donor was 16 year-old Michael who had a tragic accident on his dirt bike, close to his home. I sent letters to his parents and sister Megan, thanking them for their loving and life-giving decision, and expressing my deep gratitude and thoughts.

Michael’s wonderful family and I exchange letters and pictures. Michael played baseball, hockey, and soccer. He loved water sports, boating and camping. He was greatly loved by his parents, sister, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and many friends. His parents built a beautiful gazebo in a nearby park in his memory. It has a drinking fountain, benches, and picture plaque. A dedication was held in July 2006 with 250 people attending.

Michael’s family honors him with an annual Memorial Poker Run. Proceeds were used to complete the gazebo, and will be used for scholarships in his high school senior class.

I have deep gratitude, honor, and love for my heart donor Michael, his parents and sister – thank you.

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