I’ve had a bad heart for most of my adult life. I was on my second pacemaker/defibrillator when things started to go downhill rather quickly. In April of 2005, I collapsed on stage while performing and ended up in the hospital. In total, I collapsed four times in public and once at home. Each time, my defibrillator kicked in and shocked me back to life.
Finally, after 15 years of care, my cardiologist told me there was nothing more he could do for me. My heart was failing. He recommended me to a heart surgeon at Duke Hospital. After weeks of testing, it was determined that I needed a heart transplant and soon. My heart was giving out fast and I had perhaps one year or less to live.
Because of my rare blood type, I was put on a short list. A heart was found rather quickly, but it was a false alarm. It turned out to be too large for my chest cavity so someone else received it instead of me. I went home “broken-hearted”. Six weeks into the program, I got another call from Duke. They had found another heart. This time it was a perfect match. The surgery was performed in November of 2005. It was a six and a half hour operation and, except for some very minor complications during recovery, everything went perfectly. Eight days later, I was sent home. To this day, I don’t know anything about my life-saving donor except that she was a 20-something female.
Today, I feel like I am a part of a very exclusive club that few people can be a member of. I wear my new heart with pride – like a badge of honor. I want to tell it to the world. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this second chance at life, but I’m not going to waste it. There was a living, breathing person who now lives inside of me. She had family and friends who all miss her. She had a home. She had likes and dislikes. She had her whole future ahead of her until some tragedy cut her life short. I’m going to treat her with the respect she deserves. I’m going to watch over her and make sure she gets the medications she needs to keep her healthy. In other words, I’m going to take care of her like my life depended on it.