Super Bowl 2013

Let me confess up front, if I had been offered $1,000,000 the day before the Super Bowl to just name the two teams that would be competing, I would not be any richer than I am now.  Just not my thing, following sports, even football in this Eagles fan town of Philadelphia.  Even on a phone call that Saturday, I didn’t understand someone’s comment about “wishing luck tomorrow (Sunday)”, clueless that Sunday was the BIG day for THE GAME.

But I do watch the Super Bowl, my one game of the year to watch, without a favorite team to cheer for, picking up any points of interest in the pre-game show, loving the commercials, just hoping for an exciting game of pure entertainment.

Well, we got all that and more this year of 2013 with what I would describe as the best football game I have ever seen.  It had everything – brothers as two head coaches (named Jim and John, same names as my brother and me), mom and dad (and sister) interviewed before the game as to who they were cheering for to win (great family story overall), excitement from the beginning to the end (from looking like a rout in the first half to that great comeback from behind to take the final decision down to that last 4 second mark, and even that with a contested call by the ref!, a record 109 run back (or did they finally call it “just” 108 yards and thus a tie for the all time record?), two exciting quarterbacks who never gave up and took the contest back and forth with great passing and runs that left that final conclusion in doubt, no matter which team you were rooting for.

Add to all that, the infamous Super Bowl dome blackout – well what more could you ask for, seemingly changing the whole game with the 49’ers comeback after the lights came back on 34 minutes later.  It will take forever to assess public blame for that one, which of course has been the daily news ever since.   Glad to see the fans took it all in stride, and Oreos getting special attention for how their ad agency responded and got a realtime decision to put that special message on the stadium light board promoting “eating their cookies in the dark”- something that typically takes many committees/executives and weeks to decide.  Good for them!

And of course there were my favorites, the commercials (I skipped the half-time show, amazed with the technology, but not a fan of the music show itself), some ads really GREAT, others watched with disbelief that anyone would have paid those millions of dollars of ad time and production costs for such a waste of poorly done message exposure.  My favorites?  Definitely the Budweiser baby Clydesdale returning affection for his original owner, and maybe even a tie with that for the two Chrysler ads – one in tribute for our troops (two full minutes of $3.5M per 30 second ad time? – “Wow!”) and their tribute to the American farmer – both were beautiful and very moving.  As one who often can’t figure out who the ad is even for, these ads kept the company and their products in my memory and isn’t that what its all about (yes, I would buy their products IF I was a beer drinker or interested in buying a car, given the very positive image of each company that was left in my mind – “Well done Bud and Chrysler!)” – to all the other companies I would just say, “See, it can be done!  Really great, positive and effective outstanding ads can be done – just do it!” 

Just for the record, not Super Bowl related (so you don’t think  you missed their ad there), another company that would get my vote for consistent best ads (and shows) would be Hallmark cards – I love their Hallmark Hall of Fame TV specials and each and every ad during those shows (all Hallmark ads), with that beautiful theme of “Life is a special occasion!” Couldn’t have said it better myself (smile!).

So, after a fun entertainment event, this really great SB game, I’m filled with football trivia for a few days, and then will go dormant as a fan until next year when, if I don’t forget that it is coming up, I will again become a football “fan for a day” but doubt we will see a repeat of this greatest football game ever (at least as I see it).

For the record, in high school, I went out for track and reversed that decision after the first day of practice, just not a runner even back then.   Later I was invited to become the tennis coach for (JFK HS in Iselin, NJ) the high school tennis team at the school where I taught math, to which I replied, “But I don’t know anything about tennis!”  The athletic director came back with, “Did I ask if you knew anything about tennis?”  I had always wanted to play tennis, so I said yes and he told me to report to the principal to tell her I was the new tennis coach.  I bought the book(s), learned the game as I went and taught kids who came out who didn’t know any more than I did, how to play tennis based on my reading and practice the day before.  Actually it was a good thing since I really understood what they were going through in slowly learning the game.  Years later, one year after my heart transplant, I was to play tennis in national competition at the US Transplant Games in Salt Lake City and had a really great time despite the high altitude and 100 degree plus weather that Sunday.  No, we didn’t win by score (yes, it was doubles), but was ecstatic at feeling so good, even offering to play another set with those 20-something California kidney transplant tanned and well-practiced players.  Since they had more matches to play in the next round, they declined.  Later I competed in table tennis, badminton (medal won) and swimming (also medal winning) but would never call myself “an athlete” – just a “non-athlete” with a “gifted heart” who lives life to the fullest, seeing each (Hallmark) day as “Life is a special occasion”hoping that you can do the same!

See you next year “at the BIG game” – well watching it with you on TV at least.

Every Fall, I reach out to my donor family through Gilberto, older brother to my deceased heart donor, Roberto, with a letter of gratitude.  Yes, organ donation is an anonymous process, but all across the country recipients and donor families make contact in all sorts of coincidences and welcome ways, many eventually agreeing to meet face to face.  I am blessed with having had such an opportunity and thus this at least annual exchange of thanks for my life saved and Gil’s interest in getting an update on how life is continuing with his brother’s heart still beating here in my body now 15 years later (as of Oct 19, 2009).

In his letter Gilberto shares a poem of special meaning from his youth, one that he still remembers these many years later.  With his permission I share it with you here:

He and I see much meaning in those beautiful words, as you too can imagine in light of this heart transplant story we share.
“Thank you yet again, Gilberto and family, as life goes on with this heart still beating.”
– Jim

Just came across a recorded webcast of an actual heart transplant operation.  So many ask me about my heart transplant, and since I wasn’t awake to know what that experience was really like (being under anesthesia at the time), let me offer you this ring side seat for the whole procedure:

(viewer warning: the following contains graphic scenes of an actual surgery, so come prepared, but also be prepared to be fascinated – you can only imagine how fascinating this video must be to me as a 15 year – as of 2009 – survivor of a heart transplant)

So, what are you planning to do with your own heart after you no longer need it?  My overall message is simple: organ transplants work, make a personal decision about becoming an organ donor, and most importantly, tell your loved ones what that decision is, and register the decision with your state’s organ donor registry (usually the motor vehicle agency that issues your driver’s license).  As one man so aptly said, “It isn’t a question whether you are going to be an organ donor or not.  You will be a donor!  The question is are you going to donate to the ground, or donate to save someone’s life?”  I’m a registered organ donor (of course), are you?

PS: If you have any concerns about being an organ donor, feel free to write to me and I will help with my own insights from these many years of life with Roberto’s donated heart.  Meet my donor, Roberto Quebas:

My heart donor, Roberto

My heart donor, Roberto

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

Is my book what you came for?  Then link to my free book: A Gift from the Heart


With AOL Hometown being discontinued (sad day) I am forced to find a new “web home” and WordPress seems to offer the resources and flexibility that my fit my style and thus, here I am!  So, with intent to both Blog and host web pages here, we are off and running.

Jim & Pam, and life is very good!
Jim & Pam, and life is very good!

Check out my background in the Pages to the right, beginning with ABOUT and continuing with a little background in the pages below that.

Also, check out the link to my free book, A Gift from the Heart, offered in memory of my heart donor, Roberto Cuebas, who back in October of 1994, lost his life in Brooklyn, NY, but in doing so, saved mine when his heart was donated and transplanted to replace my failing heart over in Philadelphia.  But wait, that’s what the book is all about, so go there to read the full story of the many years he and I have shared since that gift of life was donated.

Jim Gleason