About this time – 6pm – or shortly after, back on Wednesday, October 19th of 1994 (21 years ago) I was unconscious being wheeled our of my heart transplant surgery, so have no real memory of that time.
I clearly recall (and love sharing the story) of my HUP transplant coordinator nurse, Heather’s phone call early that morning to say “Mr. Gleason, I think we have a heart for you!” I said thanks, looked up and said a payer of thanks, and called family to suggest they come down as things were going to start happening.
The donor recovery process isn’t a fast one, so it was later that afternoon that two pretty (as I seem to recall) nurses came to say it was time and took me on that gurney to the waiting surgical team. I confess there was no fear at all. I had waited only five weeks and while I knew from their daily visits that time was indeed running out (as confirmed years later when Heather shared her own fears from back then as her part in my book, A Gift from the Heart, knowing that the weaken heart was failing and it was only a matter of days left) but had accepted that “God’s will be done” while still praying for my miracle. Ron (after waiting 9 weeks), had received his heart two days earlier, while John, the third of the ‘3 heart BEATS – that’s Bodies Eagerly Awaiting Transplant Surgery – was to receive his own new heart one day later (waiting 7 weeks). I followed their instructions, counting back from 100, 99, 98, 97 and . . . was asleep, missing the excitement that was to follow while worried family lived through the typically 5 hour wait for results of the surgery.
Waking up in a closed room I noticed the hands on the wall clock said 6:00, so feeling no pain (amazing as that may seem) I thought since its only been a few hours, this must have been a false start, a common event where the heart being recovered was not suitable for some reason. That had happened to Ron twice before he finally got his earlier that week, so John and I were prepared for that possible disappointment. Writing on a pad as the nurse was removing a tube from my throat, “False start, huh?” she turned to me and said, “Mr. Gleason, didn’t they tell you, YOU have a new HEART!” It was 6am, not pm. I had awakened, they tell me, around midnight for a short visit with family, but had no memory of that due to the effects of the anesthesia. With the deepest and best breath of air possible (you don’t get a good breath of air when living with cardiomyopathy), I was alive with a new strong heart beating in the staple closed chest, ready for a new life filled adventure.
(. . . to be continued – as life goes on Oct 20th and beyond)