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Katie- Father received a heart transplant

Organ donation saved my dad’s life. He suffered a massive heart attack in the summer of 2020 and nearly died. He had no family history of heart disease and was a super fit guy who ate well and biked dozens of miles on the weekends, so this came as a massive shock to my family.

The heart attack killed 75% of his heart and he was being kept alive by an impella to help circulate his blood, and an ECMO to provide him cardiac and respiratory support. While my mother didn’t tell me at the time, he was given about two weeks to live because his heart was so weak. Thankfully, having external devices to help keep you alive puts you at the top of the heart transplant list!

The word “heart transplant” was a really scary one for me. I knew how serious a procedure it was and that there was a chance my dad wouldn’t make it out of surgery. Once we realized it was our only hope, we spent the next ten days praying for a match. It was truly all we could think about. Any time my mom’s phone rang, we waited with bated breath to see if it was the doctors to tell us they found my dad a heart.

On June 23rd, we got the news! My mom ran into my room and woke me up in the middle of the night jumping up and down like a kid on Christmas morning! Our prayers had been answered and all we could do at that point was wait to hear how the surgery went. It took a *long* time….about 8 hours, but my mom finally got the call that it went great, and my dad would be off his respirator in a matter of hours.

The first time we face-timed with him after surgery was such a relief, but it was far from a fast recovery. He got pneumonia from being on the respirator for so long and asked to go back on the respirator at one point. He could barely eat because he had a hard time swallowing. He also had ICU delirium and wasn’t himself at all which was very hard to see. However, after about two weeks, he made it over the hump and was well enough to be discharged to a cardiac rehabilitation center. He was released back home on August 4th.

Fast forward to today, April 10th, it all seems like a bad dream. He’s gained back 30 of the 40 pounds he lost, he’s 100 % himself, he’s able to work out.  He’s even seeing patients virtually again (he’s a doctor). In three months, he’ll walk me down the aisle! There are so many milestones and special moments in my life I almost didn’t have him for. I can’t even begin to imagine the heartache my family would be going through if we lost him.

Organ donation saved my dad and truly saved my family, too. We are forever grateful for his donor and donor family. I never realized how important organ donation was until it affected my family. Now, it’s a cause I’m extremely passionate about, and hope to educate and raise awareness about it for the rest of my life. You can truly become a hero for a family (or several) and it just takes a minute to register!!