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Celebrating Dad's Three Year Heart Transplant Anniversary

Amy-Dad-Walk-for-Organ-Donation-Awareness
Written by Amy Brown, Daughter of a Heart Recipient

Since April is National Donate Life Month and organ donation is such an important topic, I thought it would be a great time to share our story. With all of the bad in the world today, I just wanted to share something that’s good, someone who is good. To show everyone that there are still kind, compassionate, truly awesome people in this world.

When Life Changes in a Moment's Notice

Photo: Dad and I walking for organ donation, post transplant.
I know that there are still these kind, compassionate, truly awesome people in this world because three years ago, I received a phone call that changed my family forever. The phone rang at six in the morning, and I answered the call from my best friend, Tracy. Her voice was shaky and broken as she shared the terrible news -  her brother in law Tom, who was just 41 years old, had been in a serious ATV accident and wasn’t going to make it. They were devastated, and I was heartbroken for them.

I cried for my friend and her family, and we left our conversation with love. A few short hours later I received a text, it was from her… “Amy, I just wanted you to know that we have decided to donate Tom’s organs, he would want something wonderful to come out of his tragic accident.” I was amazed, proud, and grateful just thinking of all of the people that he would be able to help. This news was so very near and dear to my heart - my own father was on the waiting list at that time, in need of a life-saving heart transplant. The next message sent me into a flurry of emotion, “Amy, I need your Dad’s full name and date of birth, and the transplant center where he is registered, they told us that we could look at him first and see if he is a match and we want to do that.”

The gratitude, and love that I felt at that moment is something that I will never forget. How do you even begin to process that information? How do you say thank you to this amazing family for even thinking of us during their own time of devastating loss and sadness? I replied to her message, and that was the end of it... so I thought. There are SO many things that needed to match for this to work, I never imagined in a million years that it would happen like this. 

amys-dads-donor-tomKnowing the odds of Tracy's brother in law being a match for my dad were unlikely, I focused my thoughts on my friend and her family, praying so so hard for strength and peace for all of them. I could hardly sleep that night, as my emotions and thoughts seemed overwhelming. Drifting in and out, I was awakened from my shallow sleep by a phone call from my father. I picked up the phone to my father saying, “Are you ready to go to Philly?” I couldn’t believe it! Immediately I felt paralyzed and I couldn’t speak; all I could do was cry and tell my dad how much I loved him.
Photo: Dad's donor, Tom

How is this even possible? The odds of something like this happening just seemed impossible! I called Tracy to tell her after we verified that the heart was indeed his, and she couldn’t believe it either.

Forever Changed

Photo: Dad and I right before surgery

Amy-Dad-right-before-Surgery-4-15-12I can honestly tell you that I will never be the same after this. My Dad and I left for Philly that morning, talking to Tracy every step of the way. We kept her posted on our end while she gave us updates from hers. As we sat in my Dad’s hospital room, waiting for them to take him back for surgery, Tracy sent me a picture... of Tom. I held my phone close to my heart and cried, I could hardly look at it. How could something like this happen to such a handsome, young man? It just didn’t seem fair.

Photo: Dad two days post transplant

Amys-Dad-2-Days-Post-Heart-TransplantI left the room and went down to the chapel to pray for everyone involved. It was hard to imagine having so much love for someone that you’ve never met, but I did, and I always will. He’s my hero because he saved my father’s life and the lives of several others that night. I could tell you all of the amazing stories of what happened during this whole journey thus far… but I will save that for another time.
I will end by telling you that my Dad’s recovery has been amazing! He is home, and feels great. He is able to walk, climb a flight of stairs without stopping or losing his breath, and he even goes to the gym several days a week. These are things that he hasn’t been able to do in years, and for us, they are huge victories. So far he has experienced no rejection of the heart, and I don’t believe that he ever will. April 16th marks three years for this amazing miracle.

Tom, we are so thankful for your life and your love. Thank you for being our angel, we send you our love and gratitude. We will never forget you. 

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Dad and I taking the #outliveyourself pledge!

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Photo: Dad with Peter, Tom's brother, and my friend Tracy

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Tags: My Stories, The 'Outlive Yourself' Spirit, Talking About Organ Donation

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