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July 20, 2009
It was Memorial Day weekend and I told Larry, "I can’t do anything, Larry," and he had time off and I told him to go fishing with his friends and that’s what he did. And it was my home health care nurse Chris McGovern who was with me that day and I told her that I felt like my life was slipping out of my body and I was like, "I just don't know." She goes, "Deb, you just need a heart." Then I got the call. And six hours later I got my heart.
The big deal of my day was to pick up my nieces. This is the crazy thing. My youngest niece, Natalie, would ask me every day when I picked her up from school, "Did you get the call? Are you getting a new heart?"
And I would tell her, "I’m here Natalie, aren't I? No, I didn't get the call." That day I had picked up my other niece, Nikki, from high school and we were on the freeway and taking the exit to get Natalie and Kristi (my transplant coordinator) calls me and says, “Debbie, where are you? We have your heart! We just need one final crossmatch to be sure. This heart match is so great, the heart is so awesome, we think it’s gonna be a go.”
And I am just so excited, I have no fear, I know it’s meant to be, but what are the chances the day I tell Chris that I feel like my life is slipping away …and six hours later....
I go to pick up Natalie around corner and told Nikki, "Don’t say anything to Nat; let’s see what she says, let's see if she asks the question." Natalie gets in the car, fastens her seat belt, looks forward and asks, "Auntie, did you get the call?"
And I was able to reply "Yes, Nat, I did get the call, and these are happy tears because Auntie is going to be back again."
I still can’t get over what a sense of humor God had because it was so funny. It’s unbelievable what happened. I called Larry and he’s heading down the mountain from his fishing trip. I called my dad who is unbelievable, and he is ready for me so I drop the girls off at the house and we were off.
After it was all over, I got to go down and hold my heart, my original heart, and I was trying to find a word for it, for this moment, and I couldn't.
My pathologist told me that if I hadn’t had that LVAD [left ventricular assist device] there was no way I would have been here because my heart had swelled so badly and there was no room for blood so it was all backing into my body, the blood and the fluid. My little heart, it was working it so hard, poor little thing, but it was actually a big thing. It's supposed to be the size of your fist and mine was four times that size!
I held it to my chest and held it on its side and I thought, this is supposed to be inside of me beating but I’m right here alive. How many people get to do that? We’ve been using the word "surreal" to describe it because there’s no other word for it. But I said, "Thank you for getting me to this point. I’m so sorry I worked you so hard, I pushed you to the end but it's your turn to rest now" and I walked away.
It makes me really appreciate the gift I was given by a donor. Being a donor is just — I can’t explain what kind of gift you give someone. Now I’m treadmilling and biking and doing laundry and taking Bounce sheets and throwing it in the dryer. I couldn’t even do it before and now it’s no biggie. And I can take dishes out of the dishwasher and I’m not stuck sitting in my chair anymore. It’s been an unbelievable ride. Every day is such an improvement and there’s more I can do. It’s not easy, there’s lots of medications I have to take but I’m learning to deal with it all. And there has been no pain. No pain anymore at all. Follow more of Debbie's heart transplant journey.
For More Information
To learn more about the heart transplant program at Sharp Memorial Hospital, please contact the program directly by calling 858-939-3831, Monday through Friday, 7 am to 3:30 pm.
To learn more or to find a cardiologist affiliated with Sharp, please call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-824-4277) or go to Find a Doctor.