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Recipient Stories

Tuesday’s Tale: From Doctor to Patient

ABOVE: Jim and his wife, Pat, on a trip to Alaska, June 2010

I was working as a Gastroenterologist in 1984 when I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy or the weakening of my heart muscle.  I was used to treating patients, many of whom had received transplants, but when I was told I might need a heart transplant I was in denial.

I continued moving forward, trying to keep my life as normal as possible.  My health began declining and I dealt with fatigue and night sweats.  I worked as long as I could, but was able to do little else and had to back off of hands-on work.

I thought I could live with the heart condition, but after a couple scary episodes, I realized that a transplant was my only option.  In the fall of 1992, I was listed for a heart transplant.

Like many others on the transplant list, I had a long and arduous wait.  My wife was worried about me, as the simplest tasks became too much.  I couldn’t even eat a meal without taking a break.  By December 1993 I was so sick that I was hospitalized until a heart became available.  18 months after I was listed, the call came that I had been waiting for.

On February 24, 1994, my donor gave me a second chance at life.  I felt no pain after the surgery and within 10 days I was ready to go!  I spent that first summer in the garden, returned my duties as a husband and father and was in the office by September.  Since my transplant I have had time to travel with my wife, watch my grandchildren grow up and finish a rewarding career as a doctor.

It’s hard to find the words to say how honestly grateful I am for the gift I received.  So I hope that by sharing my story I will inspire others to register as organ and tissue donors.  I was a donor from the earliest day it was available and have seen the impact it made in the lives of my patients, and am here today thanks to the “Gift of Life.”

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