Its Thanksgiving week and we have so much to be thankful for, and wish you all “out there” a healthy and happy Thanksgiving too.  Some examples from just yesterday, Tuesday . . .

Penn Transplant House . . .

Ground breaking for the Clyde Barker Penn Transplant House

Ground breaking for the Clyde Barker Penn Transplant House

Pam and I were attending the ground breaking ceremony for the next Philadelphia Transplant House under way by the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  It was so great to visit with some of the HUP heart transplant staff out of their office environment where we so often only see each other.  Donna, Clara, Ida, and others greeting us excitedly, guiding us over to the rolling video camera to share thoughts as a long standing (14 years now) patient about the benefits of this undertaking.  But what happened next was the discovery we so often see in how God works when we find ourselves someplace that at first doesn’t seem to make sense.

Not the “Dukes of Hazard” . . .

Donna asked if I knew Sean Dukes?  No, I didn’t, who is he?  She explains that he got his heart transplant 22 years ago at the age of 19!  Wow, anyone out beyond ten years is an inspiration and when you get beyond 15, well that’s a real exception.  Then there are a very few “out” more than twenty years and most of those I knew were well into their senior years, often showing signs of those aging years.

I went over to meet Sean and his lovely wife, Allison.  Just looking at this handsome, trim and very healthy looking young man (41 years old) just blew me away!  We chatted and every minute was an inspiration.  I couldn’t help asking his wife, in a very humorous way, “So how did you two get together, and him ‘with a heart transplant!‘ – did you really know what you were getting into?”  Allison responded lovingly with a story of their first date, sharing how he asked her to wait a minute before going into the restaurant “while I take my pills” – as he opened up the trunk of his car leaving her to wonder, was he some kind of drug dealer?  When asked, Sean casually responded, “I’ve had a heart transplant and need to take these pills to protect that heart.”  As she went on to describe, “Well, he said it so casually, I took my cue from that just accepted it.”  Eventually they got married and today have two young children, 10 and 12 years of age.  He works for Lockheed Martin and appreciates everything in his life every day with his “new” heart (we all always refer to it as being our “new heart” even after 14 or even 22 years). 

Talk about inspiring! . . .

You have to stop and realize that the era of successful heart transplantation had just started with the advent of effective immune suppressant meds in 1983, and here was Sean, talking about his adventure at the age of 19 (they weren’t even doing them for that age then…) back in 1986, just 3 years into that era.  Standing in front of me was what I would consider the best “poster child” for heart transplantation that I had ever seen, and he was talking to me as a “neighbor” with a smile and story of success that truly touched my heart.  I do plan to reach out to them later and form some relationship that will help inspire others too.  Stay tuned…

New World . . .

Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center

Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center

Leaving before the final speeches were given, we rushed across town to the beautiful Kimmel Center for the next in a series of special “Access concerts” which offer classical music performed by the world renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, usually with special guests and always a fascinating narrative and slide show explaining some aspects and insights into the music they are featuring.  Tonight was no exception, in fact may be the best of all we have seen.  As so often is the case with taking advantage of these opportunities, we really don’t know what we are going to see, and this one connected  us to a special experience a few years back.  As part of a speaking event thanking the Novartis marketing team for the work they do saving our transplant lives with their medicines, we drove across the Nevada desert for several hours of open country while listening to a native American musician discovered at the Visitor Center just outside Las Vegas.  It was a very special time and trip, vacationing our dream in touring the Grand Canyon, but that’s another story.  Tonight the same native American flutist was featured with the full orchestra as his backup.  It was awesome, almost bringing tears to Pam’s eyes in the memories and beautiful haunting flute tones first heard in that desert trip.  Yes, of course we bought CD’s of R. Carlos Nakai-Udi and cellist, Bar-David and are listening to them even now as I write this post. (click on the link behind their names to hear a sample and read more)

But wait, there’s more!  The feature that evening included Dvorak’s New World Symphony #9 (listen below) with a native American Indian woman dressed in beautiful red tribal garb reading poems and other writings related by way of explaining the music we were about to hear.  Each piece was played in snippets to show how that interpreted the story of Dvorak’s life coming from his native Bohemia to the United States, and the impact of American traditions on his “New World” Symphony.  This was followed by several movements from the full symphony that we now understood and could appreciate differently.  Talk about a fascinating evening, one that touched both our hearts with that special connection. Wow!

An inspiring “What’s Possible” story . . .

And to share yet another example of inspiring lives, especially meaningful at this Thanksgiving season, see today’s amazing story of a young swimmer, Jessica Long, who is breaking records, overcoming adversity and showing “What’s Possible” (<– click here to view) on Daryn’s daily web story.

Now go and get busy with that turkey dinner preparation, and enjoy your Thanksgiving.

– Jim G

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