Our son, Tim, was studying to be an English teacher. While a student at Delaware State, he developed a terminal illness and died 24 hours after becoming ill.
At the time I was totally oblivious to the absolute need for organ donation. It’s not something you ever “plan” for your children. We felt organ donation made Tim’s life meaningful because it’s helping others fulfill his dreams through their lives. I hope you will “promise a tomorrow today.”
In the early 1970s, it was discovered that I had two kidneys that were atrophied. My situation was continually watched as my creatinine level slowly rose. In 2003, it was obvious that I needed to get on a transplant list. At the time, I really felt poorly and I was on kidney dialysis. Although I continued to work full time, this process really drained me and I got very tired.
On Feb. 1, 2004, I received the call I had been waiting for. The lady on the phone from the University of Pennsylvania Hospital said six of the most important words that I have ever heard: “The doctor wants to admit you.” Everything went very well. I had a real problem dealing with the fact that someone had to die for me to receive my kidney, but over time, I have accepted it.
I have since corresponded with my donor family through letters forwarded through Gift of Life Donor Program. Then one great day in August 2006, we had the wife and son of my donor in our house for dinner. It was a wonderful and uplifting experience. They are great people and I feel that we now have a new extended family.
Through donation, I have found a life that I had forgotten that I had. I am back to bowling, gardening, and just about anything else that I want to do. I have joined a singing group in our church, sing for the Newark Senior Chorus and am now a member of a local PAWS group. I now am able to travel and enjoy our grandchildren and great-grandchildren more.
In 1997, I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Cardiomyopathy--an enlargement of the heart. At that time I was placed on the heart transplant list.
From 1999 to 2004, my heart continued giving me trouble. I suffered from Atrial Fibrillation, a condition in which my heart wasn’t contracting properly, causing an irregular rhythm. Subsequently, I gave up my career as a physician and moved to Delaware to work for the Division of Public Health.
In 2004, I had another battle with Atrial Fibrillation. After numerous attempts at cardio version, the physicians placed a Medtronic Defibrillator in me to maintain my heart function. In April 2005, the inevitable happened. My heart failed again. I was re-admitted to the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania.
My condition deteriorated rapidly. I went into cardiogenic shock and my heart, liver, and kidneys failed. It was determined that I may not live long enough for a heart transplant. I was placed on a Left Ventricular Artificial Device (LVAD), the potential complications and last-resort implications of which frightened my wife and me. After receiving the LVAD, my health condition moved me up to the top of the transplant list. I was among four individuals living in the hospital at that time with the LVAD waiting for a heart transplant. One person didn’t survive to get his heart.
On July 5th, a match was found for me. I remember that morning sitting in my room. . It had been four months living at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The prospect of a new heart seemed distant. I remember my nurse running into my room screaming, "We got your heart.” I cried immediately. It was midnight, after waiting agonizing hours, that I learned I would actually receive the transplant. I remember laying in the operating room just calming my mind and then the next thing I knew, I woke up and had a new heart.
In a week, I was discharged from the hospital and returned home to Wyoming, DE. I am now taking anti-rejection medications plus vitamins and supplements. I have completed my rehabilitation program and have returned to work full-time. I am also back to teaching at my martial arts school.